1. John Fogerty, Blue Moon Swamp (1997)
Best and most consistent Creedence album to date. Fogerty's voice is as moving as ever, and his guitar work is stellar. JF's also impossible to pigeonhole stylistically -- "Southern Streamline" has been getting airplay on my satellite dish's "New Country" channel.
2. Kid Ramos, Greasy Kid's Stuff (2001)
The Fabulous T-Birds' axe man puts out another awesome solo album ... this time with the help of six terrific harmonica players, including Rod Piazza (in a rare performance away from his Mighty Flyers), Charley Musselwhite, the always hysterical Rick Estrin of Little Charlie and the Nightcats, and my man James Harman, pride of Anniston, Ala., who played our wedding reception. (True.) West Coast blues doesn't get any better than this.
3. Buddy Miller, Midnight and Lonesome (2002)
When last I was in beautiful Cambria, California, the best damn radio station on the planet, KOTR-FM (The Mighty Otter), was playing this to death. I caught him at the Birchmere in suburban D.C. in 1996 as part of the eclectic (to say the least) Hightone Records Roadhouse Revival Tour, with Big Sandy and His Fly-Rite Boys, Dave Alvin, Dale Watson, and the hilarious-but-disturbing Rev. Billy C. Wirtz. Buddy held his own there, and if you're into tasty, twangy singer-songwriter stuff with again some great git-tar work, check it out.
4. Rick Holmstrom, Hydraulic Groove (2002)
The most original modern blues guitarist since Freddy King, Holmstrom steps outside the blues box and adds funk-style sampling, overdubs and reverse tape effects to traditional jump and boogie grooves. It's odd but riveting -- and a great way for the former Mighty Flyers axe man to chart his own course. It has a great beat and is easy to dance to. I give it an 88.5. The Blasters, Trouble Bound (2002).
A live set from last year's reunion tour, featuring the original line-up. Phil Alvin's voice is a bit gimpy early on, but he and the band soon start cooking. As the All-Music Guide puts it, imagine a rock-n-roll band completely conversant with every 20th century American music style who acted as if time stopped around 1963. These guys were the best of the L.A.-based roots/punk bands of the early '80s -- including Los Lobos -- and they haven't lost a thing.