The Best of 2007

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2007 was a great year for music.  Here’s the Honest Tune wrap-up…the best CDs, our staff’s favoite shows, and some noteworthy moments.  Enjoy, and here’s to a great 2008!


It happened in 2007

 

The Legends 

• Stevie Wonder tours for the first time in nearly 30 years, wowing sold out arenas across the country.

• Van Halen perform with former vocalist David Lee Roth for the first time since 1984, replacing founding bassist Michael Anthony with Wolfgang Van Halen (Eddie’s 16 year old son.)

• The Police reunite, selling out arenas and stadiums around the world on the way to becoming 2007’s top grossing tour, selling more than 1.8 million tickets for $212 million dollars.

• Genesis also reforms and tours the world, charging the same ticket prices as The Police ($200+), and playing to less than capacity rooms in many cities.

• Led Zeppelin performs a full live set for the first time since 1980 and also release a best of collection, Mothership, that lands at #1 on Billboard’s Rock and Hard Rock charts.

• The Eagles record and release Long Road Out of Eden, their first studio CD since The Long Run in 1979.

• Garth Brooks returns to the stage for his first full concert in over a decade, selling out nine straight shows at Kansas City’s new Spirit Arena.

•    The Allman Brothers Band (and the Dave Matthews Band) host charity concert in Atlanta’s Piedmont Park, the scene of many of the Allman’s most legendary early performances.

•    Rush’s Snakes & Arrows is the band’s highest charting CD (topping at #3) in 14 years, and earns Grammy nomination for the instrumental “Malignant Narcissism.”  


The "new guys" 

• After 14 years on the road, The String Cheese Incident disband after a series of shows at Red Rocks  Amphitheatre

• Luther Dickinson joins the Black Crowes in the studio to record 2008 CD, and then joins the band later in the year.

•  Grace Potter and the Nocturnals enjoy breakout success, performing numerous nationally televised performances and touring with Gov’t Mule

• Widespread Panic makes their debut performance at Nashville’s famous Ryman Auditorium, selling out three nights in under a minute

• Amy Winehouse earns six Grammy nominations with her album, Back In Black, but garners even more publicity through countless arrests

• Radiohead generates a huge buzz by releasing their new CD, In Rainbows, online, allowing customers to name their own price.

• Tea Leaf Green loses bassist Ben Chambers, gains Reed Mathis in his place.

• Keller Williams forms new band, the WMD’s, made up of Williams, Keith Moseley (String Cheese Incident), Gibb Droll (Gibb Droll Band), and Jeff Sipe (ARU, Trey Anastasio, etc.)

• Not long after their Bonaroo set, regarded as one of the year’s best, The White Stripes cancel the remainder of their tour due to Meg White’s anxiety disorder.

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Another year of CD releases…here’s the Honest Tune top 30 of 2007: 

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1 – Wilco : Sky Blue Sky


As subdued as Wilco’s Sky Blue Sky feels, it’s presence has been ubiquitous– from TV shows to car commercials – while still maintaining the integrity of the band and its music. Jeff Tweedy’s sleepy songwriting style – robust and textured, waxing and waning in waves of cool crescendos – is shot in the arm over and a over again by guitarist Nels Cline’s avant-garde riffing; a clear winner for the band and for the year in music. – Jamie Lee

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2 – Iron and Wine: The Shepherd’s Dog


This could have easily been the best album of the year. The infectiously delicious sound of “Pagan Angel and a Borrowed Car” alone is worthy of glorification, and there are 11 other masterful tracks that follow. The album devours musical boundaries and touts a surprising world-beat presence. If you haven’t liked the whispery vocals of Sam Beam before, put away your premonition and get ready to be swept away with the whole affair. – Brad Hodge

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3 – Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings : 100 Days, 100 Nights


Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings are a match made in soul heaven – the mighty Ms. Jones singing her velvet-smooth soul on top of the funk and soul of the highly sought after Daptone Records house band. If you don’t get up and dance when their gritty grooves take hold, it’s time to check your pulse. – Fred Adams

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4 – Arcade Fire : Neon Bible

Neon Bible, the follow up to Arcade Fire’s acclaimed debut Funeral, finds the collective raising the dead with stomping celebrations, near-religious crescendos, and swirling orchestration that emerges from the ether in fits before disappearing just as it came. Like an old house carved with nooks and crannies, Neon Bible is full of shadowy corners to curl into. – JL
 
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5 – Band of Horses : Cease to Begin

Band of Horses broke through as a promising Seattle band with 2006’s Everything All the Time, but after returning home to the Lowcountry of the South Carolina, the band has swept away the clouds and let the southern sun shine on this sparkling collection that solidifies their place in the indie music world. Ben Bridwell’s haunting wail lifts both full-fledge rockers and front-porch sing-alongs on this classic album from a band that still promises so much more. – JL
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6 – Jason Isbell: Sirens of the Ditch

I never really knew the reason I liked the Drive-By Truckers so much was Jason Isbell, until I heard Sirens of the Ditch. Isbell has taken the role of being “THE” leading man in full stride. He and his band, the 400 Unit, perform with a punch-you-in-the-lip tenacity. And Isbell has notched out a strong foothold on the climb to greatness; songs like “Dress Blues” and “The Magician”, in all their magnitude, only tap the honey hole of talent this young man has. – BH
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7 – Ryan Adams: Easy Tiger

How does Ryan Adams do it? It’s unbelievable that he can continue to crank out disc after disc of stellar music, but on Easy Tiger, the world’s best songwriter is at it again. From the opening "Goodnight Rose" to the final "I Taught Myself How To Grow Old," there isn’t a throwaway track on the disc, and with the subsequent Follow The Lights EP, it’s clear he and the Cardinals are really clicking, which means nothing but good things. – Josh Mintz
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8 – Radiohead: In Rainbows

Radiohead has long redefined what is possible in a rock song. With the Internet-only release of In Rainbows it has now also redefined how we obtain our music. Scaling back the experimental-theatrics of their previous albums and focusing instead on the “heart” of each tune, Radiohead has released their most accessible album and song friendly release of its career. – Tim Newby
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9 – Galactic: From the Corner to the Block

Galactic entered the hip-hop arena – albeit, the "conscious" one – and proved itself as hard as any thug on From the Corner to the Block. The collaborations suggest that parade music and Mardi Gras Indians and New Orleans itself aren’t part of some alternate universe, and that they’re just as much a part of the R&B map as the Philly soul and L.A. funk that has been sampled to death. – Alex Rawls
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10 – Avett Brothers: Emotionalism


Emotionalism is the most well-crafted album yet from The Avett Brothers, a ground-breaking North Carolina band with a wellspring of original material. It bares raw voices, Avett accents and autobiographic experience in funny and sincere songs, both uncomfortable at times and beautiful. Lyrics, songcraft transcending genre, percussive instrumentation, and the sound of their voices together and singing in-response are uniquely the Avetts, and simply must be experienced on your stereo. – Daniel Gold

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11 – Levon Helm: Dirt Farmer

Levon Helm’s first solo studio release in 25 years marks a return to his Southern roots and is perhaps the best solo CD of his career. Following his recovery from throat cancer, Helm’s voice is slightly different, yet the phrasing remains undeniably the same. The songs are mostly rare folk covers, helping the CD to play like the soundtrack from an extraordinary family band sitting around a fire. Helm is joined by daughter Amy (of the band Ollabelle) and multi-instrumentalist Larry Campbell (long a mainstay of Bob Dylan’s band), who combine with Helm’s trademark drum style to make these old songs sounds as though they are his very own. – FA

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12 – The White Stripes: Icky Thump

From the infectious romp of the title track to the country-laced beauty of “You Don’t Know What Love Is (You Just Do What You’re Told)” to the guitar workouts that pepper the album, Jack White once again proves that he just may be the most important rock musician alive. Giant hooks, slashing guitars, social commentary, ballads and more, Icky Thump has it all. – Aaron Kayce
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13 – Spoon: Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga

Each release from Austin indie heroes Spoon has revealed a bit more under-the-skin complexity, with Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga, reaching a pinnacle. Textured with guitar struts, shake-down rants and boisterous grooves, this marks another pinnacle for a band that continues to reach just a little higher with each studio visit. – JL

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14 – Col. Bruce Hampton & The Quark Alliance: Give Thanks To Chank

Col. Bruce surrounds his out-sound with a hot combo band on the debut by the Quark Alliance, presenting a unique voice in songwriter/guitarist Jeff Caldwell, who alternates intimate lead vocals on half the songs. With the Quark crew still swinging, The Colonel delivers a rave-up performance on the remainder with rhymes, rants, and extended instrumental solos. This is one of the emblematic works of Hampton’s long career. – DG
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15 – Robert Pant and Alison Krauss: Raising Sand

Why should it come as a surprise that, when bluegrass phenom Alison Krauss and musical journeyman Robert Plant collaborate, the results are superb? The wildly successful “Gone Gone Gone” is the album’s obvious, marketable winner, but tracks like “Please Read the Letter” and the cover of Townes Van Zandt’s “Nothing” and “Fortune Teller” are the real meat and potatoes. Not to mention the band riding bitch to these icons on this journey include legendary guitarist Marc Ribot and pedal steel wizard Greg Leisz. – BH
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16 – Neil Young: Chrome Dreams II

While known for bouts of humorlessness, Neil Young does like a good joke. For example, Chrome Dreams II is the sequel to an album that was never released. While the majority of those songs ended up on subsequent releases, this follow-up collects other tunes that have been waiting for official release in the years since. And to take the gag one step further, Neil enlisted one Crazy Horseman, one Stray Gator, and one Blue Note to comprise the band. – DeMatt Harkins
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17 – North Mississippi Allstars: Mississippi Folk Music Volume 1

This acoustic gold is too easily overlooked, released only online and at shows, worthy of listens not only by fans but all audiences. Choice covers, traditional songs of the South, and originals including the joyful NMAS instrumental "ML" with the Dickinson brothers on dual acoustic guitars. A highly enjoyable history lesson promisingly titled to suggest a series. – DG

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18 – Papa Mali: Do Your Thing

Malcolm “Papa Mali” Welbourne waited five years for producer Dan Prothero’s schedule to open up to record the follow up to his Prothero-produced solo debut, Thunder Chicken. It was worth the wait. On Do Your Thing, they cook up a fuzz-toned brew of blues and funk that resides somewhere between the spirit world and the back beat, a journey ably guided by the shamanistic Papa Mali. – Tom Speed

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19 – Andrew Bird: Armchair Apocrypha

A stylistically neat follow up to The Mysterious Production of Eggs, Armchair Aporcypha showcases Bird’s sweeping and epic soundscapes and wordplay, and features what is undoubtedly one of the finest whistling performances of the year. – TS

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20 – Tishamingo: The Point

From “Mitchell” to “Tennessee Mountain Angel,” the .38 Special-like guitar riffs of “Bad News,” the simplistic rock ditty “Walkin’ Shoes,” the Texas twang of “Devil Love Song,” to the hill country blues of “Travel On,” and the unique cover of The Band’s “Chest Fever,” The Point is pure rock-n-roll with strong Southern roots. This a showcase of the best of the new breed of Southern rockers. – FA

 
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21 – The National: Boxer

The National casts a white-collar spotlight on the vulnerability that lays beneath blue blazers and martini toasts. Moody revelations on Boxer draw energy from propulsive drumming, underscoring imagery that is so real – rife with heartache and broken dreams – it could be happening to the coworker in the next office right now. – JL

 
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22 – Two Gallants: Self- Titled

Two Gallants return to their electric eccentricity with its self-titled album, a follow up to an acoustic EP, The Scenery of Farewell, released earlier this year. These releases expose the Two Gallants delicacy and darkness, both done well and in earnest. – JL

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23 – Backyard Tire Fire: Vagabonds & Hooligans

Blending heartland-rock swagger and stirring songwriting, Ed Anderson and company deliver another quality installment in the increasingly impressive BTF canon. – TS

 
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24 – The Budos Band : II

Of all the albums you listened to this year, how many were co-written by the baritone sax player? The latest from Daptone Records’ home studio – The House of Soul in Bushwick, Brooklyn – is the second from The Budos Band. Afrobeat melodies over chitlin rhythms play just as linen short sleeve as they do three-button suit. But enough pan-cultural cracks are filled to transport you from a Tokyo spy-thriller to the heppest bull fight in a matter of bars. – DH

 
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25 – New Monsoon: V

For a band that’s had constant line-up changes for over a year, New Monsoon really showed their perseverance on V. The album is their most well-rounded to date, showcases the band’s versatility, songwriting chops, and musicianship. – JM

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26 – moe.: The Conch

With The Conch, moe. seem to have perfected the cure to the jam-band studio album curse that they first found with its predecessor Wormwood. The so-called curse dictates that jam bands that thrive on stage can’t cut it in the studio. The cure? Record live tracks and mold them in the studio into something else. They hit back-to-back home runs with this one. – AK

 
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27 – The Sea & Cake: Everybody

Relinquishing minimalism and deconstruction, The Sea & Cake created an album that can actually be performed by a quartet in a room. And while still light and airy, they forgo coyness in favor of assertion. But Everybody doesn’t offer a dumbed-down version of the band. Jazzy chords and African licks still abound. With indie-cred fully in tact, this album simply presents a more robust version the Chicagoans. – DH
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28 – Grace Potter and the Nocturnals: This Is Somewhere

Grace Potter’s got pipes, song sensibilities, and a band that rocks. On This Is Somewhere, she and the Nocturnals lay down catchy, tender and bold arrangements that highlight the personality in her powerful voice. – DG

 
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29 – Great Lake Swimmers: Ongiara

Ongiara is a magical journey into the heart of indie-folk’s haunting beauty. Featuring pristine, understated vocals, lush acoustic instrumentation, and impeccable song structure, Great Lake Swimmers have crafted one of the most surprising and impressive albums of 2007. – AK

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30 – Modest Mouse: We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank

Straddling the area between the pop brilliance of its last album and the scathing indie-rock mastery that populated its earlier releases, Modest Mouse has created an album that perfectly inhabits that all too tricky nether-region between the two. On We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank, the band has taken a smattering of disjointed melodies and off-kilter tunes, and married them to a barrage of oddly tuned guitars that combine to create a gorgeous crash of indie-pop genius. – TN

 

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Here’s our editor/staff picks for the best shows of the year.  Bear in mind there is no way to make an accurate decision on what the best show of the year was – frankly, a "show of the year" doesn’t exist, because it’s a subjective topic.  It’s hard enough to make a call on a CD of the year.

  So, here’s a list of what each of us thought rocked in 2007, based on shows that we each attended. 

Tom Speed: Editor-in-Chief

1) Blue Mountain
The Basement
Nashville, Tennessee
November 2

I saw six of Blue Mountain’s “don’t call it a reunion” shows this year, and the brevity of this one—a showcase at the Americana Music Association conference—forced the band into an urgency that suits their style. In just 45 minutes they surveyed their deep catalog and debuted a few new tunes from their next studio album.

2) Peter Rowan
Proud Larry’s
Oxford, Mississippi
May 25

There is a lot to be said for a guy that can roll into town with nothing more than a rental car and a guitar case and mesmerize a room full of people.  Peter Rowan is that guy, and still the best.

3) My Morning Jacket
Langerado Music Festival
Ft. Lauderdale, Florida
March 10

Langerado is an exceptionally well-run event, and a great way to kick off festival season and spring. There were many highlights of the weekend, but MMJ’s Saturday night headlining performance was the one that truly floored me.

4) Alvin Youngblood Hart
North Mississippi Hill Country Picnic
Potts Camp, Mississippi
June 30

Alvin Youngblood Hart’s rip-roaring set was certainly a highlight of a festival that was full of them.  Hart continues to stake his claim as one of our best living modern day bluesmen.

5) Eric Lindell
Blues Tent – New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival
New Orleans, Louisiana.
May 6

The Blues Tent felt like the Gospel Tent when Lindell and company whipped a rapt crowd into a soul steamed revival.

Josh Mintz: Managing Editor

1) Ryan Adams & the Cardinals
Germantown Performing Arts Center
Germantown, Tennessee
July 12

The world’s most prolific songwriter performed acoustically to a speechless, awestruck audience.  Just Adams, his phenomenal band, his great songs, and a dead-silent crowd.  Probably one of the greatest shows I’ve ever seen, not just of the year.
 
2) Derek Trucks & Susan Tedeschi Soul Stew Revival
Fox Theatre
Atlanta, Georgia
December 31

Trucks and family laying down the funk like very few bands today to bring in 2008.  A mish-mash of soul, jazz, world music, and rock all blended into something sugary-sweet, led by the best guitarist on the planet.  The Luther Dickinson sit-in didn’t hurt either.

3) The Allman Brothers Band
Beacon Theatre
New York, New York
March 24

A monstrous “Liz Reed > Mountain Jam > Dazed and Confused > Mountain Jam” capped off an amazing show from a band really tuned into a venue.  There’s nothing better than the Allman Brothers at the Beacon.

4) Railroad Earth
Proud Larry’s
Oxford, Mississippi
June 14

Railroad Earth’s first voyage into the Mid-South, and the crowd showed up in force to greet them.  A mesmerizing show from one of the tightest bands out there.
 
5) Oteil & the Peacemakers with Jimmy Herring
Gibson Lounge
Memphis, Tennessee
January 11

The Peacemakers are definitely an underrated band, but throwing in Herring packed the house, and the group responded by throwing down the funk all night long.

Fred Adams: Features Editor

1) Led Zeppelin
02 Arena
London, England
December 10

Led Zeppelin, performing their first full show in 27 years.  Given time to rehearse, the band delivers the performance fans had long waited for, giving hope of a 2008 tour for all the world to see.

2) Widespread Panic
Red Rocks
Morrison, Colorado
June 24

After 20 years and over 300 times seeing Panic, I finally have a favorite new show.

3) Dancing for Architecture Benefit
Georgia Theatre
Athens, Georgia
May 24

Seven of my favorite bands, at my favorite local venue, all performing to celebrate my 40th birthday.  

4) Derek Trucks & Susan Tedeschi Soul Revue
Jazz Aspen
Aspen, Colorado
September 3

An absolutely stunning performance by some of the most soulful and talented, musicians on the road today.

5) Warren Haynes 19th Annual Xmas Jam
Asheville Civic Center
Asheville, North Carolina
December 15

After 19 years of bringing his musical comrades to the mountains of Asheville to build homes for Habitat for Humanity, Warren delivered the most diverse lineup the Jam has ever witnessed.

Brad Hodge: Live Music Editor

1) Widespread Panic
Ryman Auditorium
Nashville, Tennessee
October 26

Monumental Widespread Panic. The band had stumbled a little on the first night, gotten better on the second as was in perfect form on night three. Highlights include "Life During Wartime," "Proving Ground > Fixin’ to Die > Papa’s > Goin Out West" and an enormous "Holden > Sharon."

2) Widespread Panic
Red Rocks
Morrison, Colorado
June 24

There is nowhere on Earth better to be than Red Rocks for a Widespread Panic Sunday afternoon show.  The struggle to make it there early after two long hard days and nights is always rewarded. This year sported a great rendition of "Can’t Find My Way Home" and "Morning Dew."

3) Herbie Hancock
Ryman Auditorium
Nashville, Tennessee
May 25

This was just one of those once-in-a-lifetime shows. To see a master of musical exploration perform in such a sacred place was truly a treat.

4) Michael Franti and Spearhead
Tipitina’s
New Orleans, Louisiana
May 4

Nothing beats the bliss of Spearhead as you walk out of Tip’s to greet the morning.

5) The Shins
Ryman Auditorium
Nashville, TN
March 9

Jamie Lee: CD Reviews Editor

1) Centro-matic/Micah P. Hinson
Emo’s
Austin, Texas
May 12

One of the most underrated bands in the country playing to a rowdy crowd in their home state. It doesn’t get any better than this, unless you throw in the dark-yet-eloquent Micah P. Hinson.

2) Ryan Adams & the Cardinals
North Charleston Performing Arts Center
North Charleston, South Carolina
October 13

Despite the number of releases Ryan Adams has compiled and shows he has played, it appears that he has finally found his stride with The Cardinals, weaving a dream-like show for a warm Charleston crowd.

3) The Lemonheads/Vietnam
The Music Farm
Charleston, South Carolina
January 26

The Lemondheads’ eponymous release put Evan Dando back on the map, and this show, full of fire and spanning the band’s catalogue, played out like its ‘90s heyday.

4) Morrissey
House of Blues
N. Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
July 21

A legend and consummate performer, Morrissey delivered a near-perfect mix of solo compositions and Smiths’ classics, backed by a crack band.  

5) Jason Isbell/Centro-matic
Crowbar
Tampa, Florida
August 18

Dismissal from the Drive-By Truckers could have broken a career, but Jason Isbell’s talent can’t be snuffed out, particularly backed by the 400 Unit. Isbell added guitar accents to the Centro set before bringing the heat of his own.

Bill Whiting: Contributing Writer

1) Hackensaw Boys
Southgate House
Newport, Kentucky
November 1

The Hackensaw’s perfect coupling of their two discs, 2005’s Love What You Do and 2007’s Look Out! in concert, culminating with the band walking off the stage and onto the floor to gather their audience around for a good old fashioned hoe down encore made this the year’s best.

2) Bela Fleck and the Flecktones
Fraze Pavillion
Kettering, Ohio
August 18

Jeff Coffin, Victor Wooten, Futureman, and Bela cast a summertime spell with brilliant selections from their 2006 release, The Hidden Land accompanied by stand-out solos that wrapped the stars around the tiny Kettering facility.

3) Kings of Leon
Bogarts
Cincinnati, Ohio
May 24

The Kings’ brutal assault combined with the one-two punch of 2005’s Aha Shake Heartbreak and 2007’s Because of the Times left a Cincinnati crowd bruised and sweating before the summer season had even begun.

4) The Songwriters Tour
Aronoff Center
Cincinnati, Ohio
January 13

Lyle Lovett, John Hiatt, Guy Clark, and Joe Ely swap songs and stories round robin style along with a joke or two thrown in for good measure to warm up a chilly winter’s night.

5) Old Crow Medicine Show
Moonlite Gardens
Cincinnati, Ohio
July 19

Picking up steam from their roots based 2004 self titled debut and 2006’s Big Iron World, Old Crow fiddled away to the strains of "James River Blues," "CC Rider," "Big Time in the Jungle" and "Tell It To Me" exciting the Coney’s denizens and adding fluorescent musical colors to the amusement park atmosphere.

 

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