by Michael Buffalo Smith
1. The Deep End Volume 1 - Gov't Mule
What an amazing and unparalleled tribute to the late Allen Woody. Featuring all of his favorite fellow bass players, playing some great music with his band mates Warren Haynes and Matt Abts, along with an array of other talents, not the least of which is Gregg Allman and Little Milton.
2. The Earth Rolls On - Shaver
Billy Joe Shaver is an amazing talent, as was his son Eddy. Shaver has lost a wife and a son in a short period of time, and this album, recorded while Eddy was still alive, is a living tribute to Billy Joe and the resilience of his family and love of the music.
3. Been a Long Time - Double Trouble
Stevie Ray Vaughan's band mates pulled off their first Double Trouble release since Stevie's death, and along with an amazing roster of talent, created one of the year's finest releases.
4. Kingdom of XII - Molly Hatchet
Hatchet cooks up one of their tastiest platters in several years. "Cornbread Mafia" is a favorite, as is "Angel in Dixie." Charlie Daniels guests.
5. All Things Must Pass - George Harrison
A brilliant reissue of a timeless album, with bonus jams and an updated slice of "My Sweet Lord." Incidentally, I had chosen this for the top ten beforeGeorge passed away. This is not an attempt at being trendy.
6. Wintertime Blues - Warren Haynes and Friends
I was among the fortunate souls who attended this, the last Christmas jam to feature Allen Woody before he passed away. There are some real moments here, from The Mule to Susan Tedeschi to the Cry of Love reunion. A double-cd treasure.
7. Ain't Love Strange - Paul Thorn
The best rock album by a boxer award goes to...Man, this is awesome. Great songwriting, excellent melodies and killer lyrics. "Mood Ring" and "Where Was I" are among the outstanding tracks.
8. Where We Started From Little River Band
A brilliant new album from one of the '70's best pop bands. Their harmonies are as good as ever, and the songwriting is top notch. "Who Hung The Moon" is an unexpected tear-jerker, and the reworkings of three of their past hits are all primo.
9. Southern Rock Opera - Drive By Truckers
Alabama's real wild men, The Drive By Truckers are artistic, talented and pretty much insane. That's why I love 'em. This 2-disc set centers around the modern myth of Lynyrd Skynyrd, and while many of the stories have obviously been enhanced to the point of sheer urban legend by the ingestion of too much brown liquor and No Doz, the album remains a killer.
10. Live - Charlie Daniels Band
The first live CDB ever, if you don't count the Volunteer Jam releases. Charlie is HOT at age 65, and pulls out some great old tunes while paying tribute to fallen friends like Duane Allman, Toy Caldwell and Ronnie Van Zant.
11. Somewhere to Elsewhere - Kansas
If you thought "Dust in the Wind" was good, check out the new and improved Kansas-2001. Some of the most progressive rock I have had the pleasure of hearing in quite a while. Steve Walsh sounds great on vocals, and the guys reunite with Kerry Livgren for a polished, fresh product.
12. Midnight in Savannah - Taz DiGregorio
The debut solo cd from Charlie Daniels' side man Taz DiGregorio is a solid keeper, filled with every possible type of musical interlude. From rock to blues to Latin. A GRITZ favorite for sure.
13. Let's Get Together - Dickey Betts Band
Dickey Betts rules. With a new band that includes a pretty hot sax player, this release is so full of music it's busting at the seams like Oprah's "Tommy" jeans! Lots of instrumentals and an instant classic called "Tombstone Eyes."
14. Wishing Well - Monte Montgomery
Monte Montgomery is one of the finest acoustic guitarists to ever play the instrument, not to mention one helluva songwriter. His albums just keep getting better and better, as evident with this year's "Wishing Well."
15. Coffee Tunes - Mojo Collins
Wilmington, North Carolina blues man Mojo Collins must live in a studio. He churns out cd's on a regular basis, all filled with a major dose of creativity and passion. With "Coffee Tunes," Mojo dishes out not only blues, but acoustic folk and even a Windham Hill new age sounding tune. This album is perfect for repeat playing. I really dig it.
16. The Damascus Road - Bruce Brookshire
Bruce Brookshire, the leader of Doc Holliday, makes it no secret that he is a Christian man, and with this solo release, he serves the Lord with an amazingly beautiful set of tunes that feature his well-written, well-played and breathtakingly sung contemporary Christian music.
17. Live Rounds from Seattle - Smokin' Gun
A Seattle-based blues rock band with heavy Allman Brothers influences, playing their hearts out live. They won the Washington Blues Society Blues Album of The Year, and will rock your toe socks off.
18. Vital Signs - Dr. Hector & The Groove Injectors
Another killer live recording from former Grinderswitch guitarist Dru Lombar, this one is an all-original, all smokin' blues album that will have you playing air guitar within five minutes of it's beginning.
19. The Mighty Field of Vision - Howler
Stephen Foster, Ray Brand and all the other Alabama cats really outdid themselves with this anthem written for The Mighty Field of Vision, a charity organization that helps down and out musicians. All the other tracks are killer as well. John Wyker must be a proud papa!
20. Tell the Truth - Lee Roy Parnell
Guitarist Lee Roy Parnell turns in one of the best albums of the year for sure, and the duet between himself an Ms. Bonnie Bramlett is a real keeper. Lotsa good singing and picking.
21. Mike Estes & Brave New South
Former Lynyrd Skynyrd guitarist Mike Estes gives us an excellent country-rock album centered around the Travis Tritt style "When the Going Gets Tough The Tough Go Fishin'." A song that really should be in the country music Top 10.
22. Southern Moon - Billy C. Farlow
Former Commander Cody & His Lost Planet Airmen singer, Farlow is touring as a third of a dynamic little trio that just plain rocks. The album is great, and I was happy to hear a retelling of "Down to Seeds and Stems Again."
23. Hell of a Note - Donnie McCormick
Eric Quincy Tate singer Donnie McCormick is a unique talent, with superb lyrics, unconventional music and lots and lots of sheer talent.
24. Sacred Hearts and Fallen Angels - Gram Parsons
By far the best ever compilation of Gram's material, from The International Submarine Band, to The Byrds, The Flying Burrito Brothers and The Fallen Angels. Rhino once again outdoes themselves with two jam-packed cd's and a thick, photo filled liner book that could stand on it's own as a biography of the father of country rock.
25. Amigo - David Ball
Country music star David Ball has broken free of the restraints the major labels seem to tie artists hands behind their backs with, and has recorded an album from the heart, filled with excellent western swing and one major hit, "Riding with Private Malone."