Albums of the year: Rock, Roots & Jazz

'The most imaginative jazz currently being played is barely jazz at all'
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The Independent Culture

The daintiest conceit of the year was the collaboration of Robert Plant with Alison Krauss on their Raising Sand, which testifies both to their respective senses of taste and to T-Bone Burnett's production smarts. At the old-and-in-the-way end of things, only Bruce Springsteen's Magic evinced the same presence of mind and body. Far and away the best guitars in 2007 were those belonging to the Tuareg tribesmen in Tinariwen. Their Anan Iman: Water of Life rolled me from the start of the year all the way into summer on a Danelectro tide. Completely magical.

I also found myself listening to a lot of music by women. There were loads of half-decent records. But Linda Thompson's Versatile Heart, Laura Veirs' Saltbreakers, Solveig Slettahjell's Domestic Songs and Polly Paulusma's Fingers and Thumbs were better than half-decent. Better even than they were Uncle Earl, whose Waterloo Tennessee was a good-ol'-girl stringband giggle-fest. I played it like mad till spring had run its course. Still don't understand why. Oh, and I quite liked half the White Stripes' effort, although they're only half woman.

It wasn't a striking year again for jazz, although this may have been because the most imaginative jazz music now being played is barely jazz at all. Examples: Dhafer Youssef and Wolfgang Muthspiel's lovely Glow and Robert Wyatt's Comicopera, both of which owe jazz something but aren't burdened, let alone enslaved, by the debt.

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