Please, God, don’t let any more of my rock heroes die this year.
The Rolling Stones — Blue & Lonesome
If this turns out to be the Stones’ final album—hey, nobody lives forever—it will go down as a precious love letter to the blues that spawned them. Mick, Keith, Ronnie, and Charlie sound juke-joint-ready on a primo batch of rollicking blues tunes by the likes of Magic Sam, Howlin’ Wolf, Memphis Slim, Little Walter, and Willie Dixon.
Drive-By Truckers — American Band
The Truckers have never shied away from politics, but the urgency with which they tackle Trumped-up topics like immigration, Islamophobia, and racial injustice has never been more fierce. Main men Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley are both gifted singer-songwriters, and their guitar licks aren’t bad either.
Jeff Beck — Loud Hailer
The world’s greatest living rock guitarist isn’t resting on his laurels at the age of 72. With Loud Hailer—another term for “megaphone”—Beck delivers a fresh-sounding blast of intense, politically minded rock. His fretwork has never been more creative and mind-blowing.
Blackie and the Rodeo Kings — Kings and Kings
The hugely talented trio of Colin Linden, Tom Wilson, and Stephen Fearing follows up its impressive female-vocalist showcase Kings and Queens by letting various male guests—including Jason Isbell, Nick Lowe, and Keb’ Mo’—take the mike on a choice collection of Blackie originals. They squeeze in one by their perennial muse, Willie P. Bennett, as well.
The Tedeschi Trucks Band — Let Me Get By
It takes a lot of love and determination to keep a 12-piece band going strong, but slide-guitar wizard Derek Trucks and his golden-voiced wife, Susan Tedeschi, have both in spades. Let Me Get By deserves a Grammy for best blues album, just like the one their 2011 debut, Revelator, scored.
Eric Clapton — Live in San Diego
The talent assembled for Clapton’s 13th live album is astounding. Not only do you have Slowhand in the company of guitarists Derek Trucks and Doyle Bramhall II, but you’ve got J.J. Cale sitting in on five tracks as well. Toss in the rhythm section of bassist Willie Weeks and drummer Steve Jordan and you’re in blues-rock heaven.
Metallica — Hardwired… to Self-Destruct
If you were wondering which metal band has been hoarding all the raunchiest riffs, catchiest hooks, and speediest lead-guitar freakouts of late, it was these guys.
David Bowie — Blackstar
Harrowing might be the best word to describe David Bowie’s eclectic and arty, sax-filled swan song, which was released just two days before the pop legend’s death from liver cancer shocked and saddened his multitudes of followers. According to coproducer Tony Visconti, Blackstar was Bowie’s intended “parting gift” to his fans.
Joe Bonamassa — Live at the Greek Theatre
When you’re a verified guitar hero who excels at the blues, you can’t do much better than unleash a two-hour, 22-track album that boasts some of the best songs recorded by the Three Kings: B.B., Albert, and Freddie.
The Allman Brothers Band — The Allman Brothers Band
Is it too late to sneak this deluxe, 15-LP boxed set onto my Christmas wish list? It comes in a solid-wood “Premium Georgia Peaches” crate, for cryin’ out loud.