Newt’s Top 10 albums of 2008

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ORIGINALLY POSTED ON STRAIGHT.COM, DEC. 10, 2008

By Steve Newton

I still like the sound of guitars the best.

Martone Clean  Local rock-guitar instrumentalist Dave Martone aims for the stratosphere with his self-produced debut on the New York specialty label Magna Carta. His band includes primo bassist David Spidel and drummer Daniel Adair, who no doubt savours the challenging break from his day job in Nickelback. High-profile guests include axemasters Joe Satriani, Greg Howe, Jennifer Batten, and Billy Sheehan.

Gary Moore Bad for You Baby  The former Thin Lizzy guitarist continues his soulful journey to the heart of the Mississippi Delta that began with 1990’s Still Got the Blues, but this time—whether on originals or on covers of songs by Muddy Waters, Al Kooper, and J. B. Lenoir—his playing is more intense than ever.

Drive-By Truckers Brighter Than Creation’s Dark  When long-time member and major songwriting force Jason Isbell left the fold last year, the DBTs didn’t falter, they just added pedal-steel specialist John Neff and legendary Muscle Shoals keyboardist Spooner Oldham to the lineup and delivered a 79-minute masterwork of Dixie-fried alt-country and gritty southern rock.

Steve Dawson Telescope  After taking a crash course on pedal steel from Greg Leisz, local guitar ace Steve Dawson makes the daunting 10-string instrument the focus of his own melody-heavy project and pulls it off stupendously. Bassist Keith Lowe, keyboardist Chris Gestrin, and drummer Scott Amendola help him soar to new heights.

Buddy Guy Skin Deep  The 72-year-old Chicago blues legend proves he’s still got it goin’ on, playing with a ferocity that recalls his Chess Records days. He gets some six-string help from the likes of Derek Trucks and Eric Clapton, but hardly needs it.

Mudcrutch Mudcrutch  Tom Petty reunites with former members of his pre-Heartbreakers outfit from Florida and delivers a rootsy, hook-filled winner. The Petty-penned originals are impressive, but you can’t go wrong with a shitkicker remake of “Six Days on the Road”.

Steve Stevens Memory Crash  When he’s not playing the raven-haired foil to pop-punk Billy Idol, Stevens moonlights as an instrumental rock-guitar hotshot with hooky riffs aplenty and the ability to travel effortlessly between feverish instro-metal and smooth flamenco. The detour into ’70s rock for Robin Trower’s “Day of the Eagle” is most welcome.

John Mellencamp Life Death Love and Freedom  The “Little Bastard” tones down the rockin’ and-with producer-guitarist T Bone Burnett at the helm-delivers 14 striking, low-key meditations on the album title’s four hot topics.

Joe Satriani Professor Satchafunkilus and the Musterion of Rock  Despite its throwaway track, “I Just Wanna Rock”, the Bay Area guitar god’s latest disc skillfully straddles the line between instrumental experimentation and metallic raunch. Satch has an incredible knack for pinpointing the perfect notes and then—in the stellar company of drummer Jeff Campitelli and bassist Matt Bissonette—getting all strange and beautiful with them.

John Hiatt Same Old Man  The American songwriting legend follows up splendid discs like Crossing Muddy Watersand Master of Disaster with another sterling collection of rootsy stompers and heart-tugging ballads. Luther Dickinson from the North Mississippi All Stars and the Black Crowes sits in fabulously on guitar and mandolin.

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