Honor roll: Blues albums

Each of these Blues albums has received at least one award nomination. They are ranked by honors received.

Album:Genius Loves Company

Genius Loves Company

Ray Charles

The fact that Genius Loves Company will be Ray Charles’s final new album inspires an unavoidable blue feeling. But it’s also a happy reminder that the man spent the last months of his life at work doing what he loved. The overall effect of these dozen duets is autumnal and smooth. Brother Ray is on point and cruising here. Fine moments abound—you can hear his delight even in the rather stiff company of Diana Krall and Natalie Cole. His voice sounds a bit frayed by ill health at times, but it also allows for great performances like the slyness behind the…

Album:Come Away with Me

Come Away with Me

Norah Jones

It is not just the timbre of Norah Jones’s voice that is mature beyond her 22 years. Her assured phrasing and precise time are more often found in older singers as well. She is instantly recognizable, blending shades of Billie Holiday and Nina Simone without sounding like anyone but herself. Any way you slice it, she is a singer to be reckoned with. Her readings of the Hank Williams classic “Cold Cold Heart” and Hoagy Carmichael’s “The Nearness of You” alone are worth the price of the CD. Jones’s own material, while not bad, pales a bit next to such masterpieces.…

Album:Mambo Sinuendo

Mambo Sinuendo

Ry Cooder, Manuel Galbán

If there’s a certain instant familiarity to this collaborative celebration between U.S. guitar icon/musicologist Ry Cooder and Cuban fret legend Manuel Galbán, it’s only testimony to how deeply the island nation’s rich musical heritage permeated American pop music in the ‘50s, ‘60s, and beyond. Cooder and Galbán (a key compatriot in the American guitarist’s Buena Vista Social Club project) invent a back-to-the-future sound—twin guitars fronting a Cuban rhythm section of two drum kits, congas, and bass—whose dreamy swing quotient is matched only by its…

Album:Timeless

Timeless: The Songs of Hank Williams

Various Artists

Like 1999’s tribute to Gram Parsons, Timeless: The Songs of Hank Williams revives the tired “tribute” concept and applies it in homage to a key figure in country music. Interpreting songs from across Hank Williams’s short and troubled career, a range of high-profile artists use different approaches with equally gratifying results. Tom Petty, Sheryl Crow and Hank Williams III play familiar songs with traditional arrangements (Ms Crow’s yodel is an eye opener); Beck, Mark Knopfler and Keb’ Mo’ stay closer to their own idioms. Keith Richards’ reedy vocal…

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