At the end of every year there’s scads of valid CDs in a big pile waiting for their turn to be loved, yet every year it’s impossible to get to them all, thus this: one last look back at 2015.

In November, I learned that there’s more coming out of Norway than just metal. Berdon Kirksaether & The Twang Bar Kings were born out of the remains of CIA, Norway’s biggest blues band of the 1990s. Yes Virginia, there is a blues scene in towns like Trondheim, Bergen and Drammen. These Norwegians (and one German) have a smoky, mysterious, jammy quality to their sound that somehow some way comes out as Swamp Rock, as if they crawled out of a Louisiana bayou. The Voodoo Sessions: Live At Down Under (Roller Records) came out in November and has singer/songwriter/producer/guitarist Kirksaether leading his crew at the biggest club, Down Under, in Norway’s biggest town, Oslo. It’s a quick 1-2-3-4 punch of an EP 20 minutes long and it positively smokes!

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In October, The Zombies proved they Still Got That Hunger (The End Records). Lead singer Colin Blunstone sounded as good last year in 2015 as he did in 1961 when he put this British psychedelic pop band together with keyboardist Rod Argent. Even the original rhythm section—bassist Chris White and drummer Hugh Grundy—is back. Man, I remember singing “She’s Not There” in my Jersey cover band, The Rock Garden, back in the 1970s. The surprise here isn’t that these 70-somethings wanted to revisit past glories. The surprise is that 1) they’re still alive, and 2) Still Got That Hunger is so good. Man, I have to turn on my old bass player Morris to this release. Back in 1968 when we were 17, we used to get high and stick our heads between two cheap speakers to take turns listening to their Odessey & Oracle masterpiece. (Don’t try this at home, it’s not the ’60s anymore.) It’s true that the music you loved growing up, you will always love. (That’s why my wife, a music teacher, loves Donny & Marie Osmond.)

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Credit (or blame) Slayer for getting me back into metal again. I admit to having rebelled against the music that I spent a large chunk of my life covering. Still, there seems to be a need for the aggression, rage and cacophony that only certain kinds of metal—thrash, death, black—can still stir within my hippie soul. I still feel power metal is stupid and that’s why I never could get behind Iron Maiden. It’s all so Spinal Tap. Screechy singers who try to sing on-key melodies come off embarrassing to me. Being multi-genre, I want no melody in my metal. Or harmony. Or any sort of lyrical content worth remembering. I want the vocals to be a thin percussive line not mixed too loud but only there as a percussive element like in death metal where the lion’s roar suits me just fine as long as the drummer has 10 arms and can bash my brain in. Anyway, last year’s Repentless (Nuclear Blast) has no such vocals (Tom Araya goes for the barking dog vocals of hardcore). But it certainly looks like 2016 will be the year metal—in short doses—sneaks back in for me.

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In August, I probably was watching too much baseball to notice the solid effort of Texas-based singer/songwriter Sarah Pierce: Barbed Wire (Little Bear Records). The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s banjo player John McEuen is on hand (man, I used to love that band back in the day). The follow-up to her also-awesome Bring It On and her autobiographical Cowboy’s Daughter, Barbed Wire is better than at least 90% of the crap coming out of Nashville these days.

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In September, the pennant races were heating up so Rich In Love (Stony Plain Records) by Canadian singer/songwriter/guitarist Colin Linden slipped right past me. He’s got blues-harp legend Charlie Mussellwhite and Levon Helm’s daughter Amy in on the Americana/country/blues/roots-rock fun. Highly recommended, had I heard it in time, it would’ve made my Top 10.

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Since the journalistic statute of limitations will prevent me from covering other strong 2015 releases, I must make mention—and wholeheartedly recommend—Mississippi Bigfoot’s Population Unknown, Slip Into A Dream by Dave Weld & The Imperial Flames, Scott Ellison’s Elevator Man, The Josh Garrett Band’s Honey For My Queen, Ain’t Bad Yet by Micke Bjorklof & Blue Strip, Gristle To Gold by Randy McAllister and the Scrappiest Band in the Motherland, Dirty Southern Soul by Stolen Hearts, the Rusty Wright Band’s Wonder Man and Woodchoppers Ball by Jay Gordon and Blues Venom. You won’t go wrong by checking out any of the aforementioned.

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