Terry McGinley of Chanhassen:
1 Lydia Loveless, “Real.” She has transformed herself from cowgirl punk to accomplished singer-songwriter. Her most mature effort to date has smart hooks, haunting ballads and emotional vocals that give proper due to her inspired live gigs.
2 John Hiatt, Imagine Gala, the Metropolitan. Covered by some of the biggest names, his brilliant songs are best by the man himself. Chatting him up after a solo show? Priceless.
3 The Shelters, “The Shelters.” This debut evokes “Rubber Soul”-era Beatles, with its jangly guitars and harmonized vocals. It draws you in from the opening track, “Rebel Heart,” and never lets go.
Jon Bream of the Star Tribune:
1 Deborah Cox in “The Bodyguard,” the Orpheum. She’s outstanding in this Whitney Houston jukebox musical. The first act isn’t ready for Broadway, but Cox certainly is. Bravo!
2 “Someone Like You.” I heard Adele’s record at Cub Foods. Then that night at the Clown Lounge, I heard Dan Wilson, the song’s co-writer, do a guitar-driven version. Got chills both times.
3 RIP, Jimmy Hamilton. A terrific jazz pianist and longtime music teacher in Minneapolis schools whose students included Prince.