Every year something happens that we don't expect. I am only gonna address to musical surprises of 2006. One was very pleasant and the other was mixed. I was glad that I can say it exists for there to even be a surprise.
The bad news is the release of "Boxing Mirror" by Alejandro Escovedo. I am so glad Al is around to give us new music. For those who don't know or haven't listened to the record, Al has Hepatitis and he almost died in 2003. We weren't sure if we'd ever get more music from him. He'd suffered a health setback and as a result he suffered a financial setback b/c he, like most working musicians, he didn't have adequate health insurance. So when I say I am glad to have more music I am sincerely happy that this master of lyric and melody is back out there. The part I don't like is the resulting record. I have grown to like the album more than I did when I first bought it but I have major problems with the production & some of the songs. I know it was produced my one of his idols, John Cale, but why? Most of the record sounds dated (in a bad way) and in general it is unattractive to me. I don't know any John Cale records so I can't say more than "I don't like it." The songs, there are several songs that are dupes from other albums and there are songs that I just don't get, I can't say more than that, I just don't get them. I love Al, I will continue to support him but this record doesn't work for me.
The biggest surprise on the positive end was Gov't Mule's "High & Mighty". I used to love this band. From 96 until 2000 I listened to Gov't Mule more than almost any other band. I traveled further to see them play than any other band, I traveled more to see them I did for any other band. I became acquainted with the band members and crew. I would dare say I became friends with them, especially Allen Woody, mainly because he lived in Nashville and I would see him when the band had a break. Those days were all about the Mule. In August 2000 Woody, bass player of the Mule, died. The band decided to create a tribute album and tour that featured a lot of different bass players and during this time the popularity of the band exploded. The shows were up and down and the family atmosphere started to disappear. I was among many old timers who felt like fish out of water.
The band settled into a 4tet with a new bassist, Andy Hess. They released the absolutely horrid album "Deja Voodoo" and I knew my relationship with the band was over. I missed the last 3 shows they performed in Nashville, which would never have happened during the late 90s. All this in mind I hesitated and hesitated and hesitated buying this record. Somewhere along the lines I heard a track and kinda flipped out. The song was really good. It was the old Mule but more. "High & Mighty" is an album for the ages. The band is cohesive, the music is nuanced yet powerful and Warren's lyrics are in the pocket. He's got his mojo back with subversive, allegorical lyrics. This is the Gov't Mule I fell in love with and thank God they are back!