Lindsey Buckingham (Associated Press photo)
Fans of Oklahoma’s diverse music scene could find plenty to celebrate in 2008, with stand-out debuts in the alt-pop, country and folk genres.
It also was the year when many big-name talents successfully reinvented themselves, whether it was Metallica returning to its thrash roots or Coldplay revealing unexpected depth.
From top-sellers to indie releases, here’s the list of the CDs that kept my ears happiest this year:
1. Lindsey Buckingham “Gift of Screws” (Reprise) – Whether blazing through an irresistible electric pop ditty or brooding through an introspective acoustic track, the Fleetwood Mac guitarist’s virtuosic skills have only grown. “Gift of Screws” doesn’t reach the stratospheric heights of the band’s “Rumours” or “Tusk” albums – really, what could? – but Buckingham conjures a dizzying array of sonic spells on his latest solo effort. Plus, his September concert at Tulsa’s Brady Theater was one of the best live shows I’ve ever seen.
2. Colourmusic “f, monday, orange, february, venus, lunatic, 1 or 13″ (Great Society) – Surely only the most terminal musical grumps could possibly resist the unbridled joy of the Stillwater alt-pop band’s first CD, which lives up to its boldly eccentric title. Just try not to groove along with the distorted rock of “Put in a Little Gas”; don’t bob your head to the sparkly “Motherfather.” I dare you.
3. Duffy “Rockferry” (Mercury) – Big-voiced female neo-soul singers became a major U.K. export in the wake of Amy Winehouse’s musical success. But Welsh songstress Duffy emerged as the true heiress to Dusty Springfield; more than just a set of powerhouse pipes, she infuses her songs with palpable longing and vulnerability.
4. Metallica “Death Magnetic” (Warner Bros.) – While not on par with the thrash sophistication of “… And Justice for All,” the heavy metal giants made an aggressive and triumphant return to form with their first album in five years.
5. Shawna Russell “Goddess” (Way Out West) – The Okemah singer-songwriter’s effortlessly blends contemporary pop-country, 1970s-style rock and Southern-fried grooves. Among a glut of much-ballyhooed country debuts, her first album proved the most divine.
6. Samantha Crain & the Midnight Shivers “The Confiscation: A Musical Novella” (Ramseur) – Another impressive debut, the Shawnee singer-songwriter, 21, shows a singularly haunting voice and canny storytelling skills on her literary EP.
7. Coldplay “Viva La Vida” (Capitol) – The British band’s melodic rock came off as too shallow and affected to hold my interest until I heard senior singer Fred Knittle crooning “Fix You” in the documentary “Young@Heart.” My closer listen coincided with a great time to rethink Coldplay: On “Viva La Vida,” producer Brian Eno helps the band augment its usual lush songs with added depth and passion.
8. Jason Boland & the Stragglers “Comal County Blue” (Thirty Tigers) – The Harrah-raised Red Dirt singer-songwriter holds nothing back, from his painful struggles with addiction to fiery political outrage, on this strikingly intimate album.
9. Brad Paisley, “Play: The Guitar Album” (Arista Nashville/Sony BMG Nashville) – The country star’s mostly instrumental effort deftly explores an impressive range of styles, from gleeful chicken-picking on “Cluster Pluck” to swinging jazz on his Les Paul tribute “Les Is More.”
10. The late Bob Childers, Jimmy LaFave and others, “Ribbon of Highway Endless Skyway: The Woody Guthrie Tribute Tour” (Music Road) – Some of the most respected talents in folk/Americana music pay homage to Okemah’s own Woody Guthrie, one of the country’s greatest musical songwriters, in this captivating live two-disc set.