"Merle Haggard: Learning to Live With Myself." TPT kicked off its latest pledge drive with an "American Masters" paean to Haggard, he of the soulful voice and Irish eyes, whose music has always wowed me. We share a love of storytelling and train whistles and the curse of going it the hard way. So we just gotta sing.

Aimee Mann, "Austin City Limits." She said it all for me back in 1985 with her 'Til Tuesday debut album "Voices Carry." Now, 25 years after, the best music program on TV showcased songs from her latest solo release, "@#%&*! Smilers."

"The Pretenders -- Live in London." If lyrics are my poetry, then Chrissie Hynde is my Erato. Taped in 2009, this PBS special was heartfelt and rockin'.


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Jamey Johnson, "Lonely at the Top." The first song on the critically revered country singer's much anticipated second CD is a pure George Jones drinking song: "It might be lonely at the top, but it's a bitch at the bottom." That number is a should-be classic, and the rest of the ambitious two-disc "Guitar Song" (out Tuesday) is a magnificent triumph.

Kiss, State Fair. Forget about Paul Stanley's painfully pitchy vocals. This was the most elaborate staging ever at the grandstand -- the first to have someone (Stanley) fly over the crowd on a cable to a remote stage. And then Gene Simmons flew up to the top of the light rigging over the stage. We wanted the best, and we got the best fun.

Karaoke at Opaa at the State Fair. The new patio at Dino's Gyros was a terrific chill spot. Highlight: Dino's daughter Alysia roaring "Proud Mary": "working for my dad every night and day."