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2007

For her 7th full-length studio album - and her first for over 9 years - Canadian singer, songwriter, accordionist, harpist, and pianist Loreena McKennitt has followed An Ancient Muse indeed.

It's kind of hard to think of Canadian songwriter Ron Sexsmith as a seasoned vet, yet Time Being will be his 10th album. His laid-back style and way with words is still intact, and this new album may be one of his best ever.

A lot more than some bland nod to the "Great American Songbook" ala Rod Stewart, Erin McKeown's latest is a totally engaging romp through some truly great old tunes. I really think Cole Porter would be happy to hear this.

I know, I know... it's kind of hard to get worked up over yet another "tribute" album. What started in the 90's as a cool idea - that being contemporary bands paying homage to their musical heroes by covering songs from said heroes and then packaging it together as an album - has gotten stale and predictable. I must say that this one - Endless Highway: The Music Of The Band - is done with enough spirit and attitude to make you forget that you were tired of these things. A couple of dozen classic, timeless tunes to cover doesn't hurt, either.

Lily Allen is January's Artist To Watch. Winner of 2006 Digital Music Awards, Lily Allen is the 21 year old singer songwriter who has been tearing up the web lately. >Here's a bona fide Internet/My Space success story. Lily Allen's much downloaded tunes and much read muses on her personal page were the sparks that launched her promising career. With "Smile" already a U.K. number one, and her album dropping this week in the U.S., is superstardom pending? Perhaps it is, and, if it happens, I for one will be watching with interest because Allen is one quirky, unpredictable could-be pop star.

For their third album, The Shins have pulled out all the stops. Chock full of memorable tunes, Wincing The Night Away is at once the band's best and most eclectic offering.

Much more diverse musically than her previous four studio albums, Children Running Through deals with some big issues lyrically - namely new beginnings and dealing with trouble and strife of all sorts. Standout tracks include "Stay On The Ride," "No Bad News" and the sublime "Heavenly Day," which builds slowly into a remarkable tune.

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah's debut album was a masterpiece of style and substance over hype. The staunchly independent group released that album without a label or promotion - traditional record biz promotion, anyway - yet it's sold in 6-figures... a daunting task in today's music-as-data, who-needs-records-stores market. All hipster eyes were/are on this second album Some Loud Thunder. Nobody should be dissappointed.

Always the cause for celebration in singer/songwriter and Americana music circles is a new album from the quirky and undeniably talented Lucinda Williams. Her new album West is a rather subdued affair, but it contains some of her most heartfelt balladry yet.

Philadelphia's own Dr. Dog has really hit the jackpot on their latest album We All Belong. You'd be hard pressed to find a more engaging album anywhere, as the band effortlessly combine familiar pop touchstones with some excellent songwriting.

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