I saved the Best Male, Best Female and Best Band for last because they were the toughest to judge. Congratulations to all the nominees - your hard work and dedication may have made my choices difficult, but to the music fans out there, every one of these CDs is incredible and worthy of more than one listen. Here's the scoop on the Best Male category.
Omar Akram - Echoes of Love - Not only was Akram nominated in this category, but he is also the only one nominated for a Grammy. Akram is an instrumentalist extraordinare, and this CD does not disappoint. I look forward to February 10 to see if an indie artist can pull off a Grammy upset.
Shane Alexander - Ladera - Another in a string of crowd-funding successes, Alexander's latest is a stunning acoustic celebration of music. Coming off his successful tour with two of rock music's icons (Yes and Styx), Alexander has returned to his roots for this delightful CD.
Dave Tucker - In Kind - My thoughts on this CD are summed up in my previously published article.
Josh Damigo - Hope - Damigo has pulled out all the stops for his latest CD project, also funded through Kickstarter. The CD includes incredible duets with Rob Deez, Nina Storey and the amazing A.J. Croce (son of the late Jim Croce), and reflects the best collaboration effort of Damigo to date. This is definitely a "desert island" CD and a must for the serious music fan.
Sam Grow - Reveal - This CD is a treat, in more ways than one. Not only does it contain some incredible songs sung by one of the next big stars in this industry, it also contains a DVD so that you can pretend you're at one of Grow's amazing shows, soaking it all in. This is a very worthy first effort by a future superstar.
Steve Carlson - Different Town - Carlson has been making the rounds in LA for several years, and spent quite a few of those years supporting Christian Kane (Elliott on TNT's Leverage). This release is the culmination of an incredible career. Not only does it give us a diverse galaxy of musical styles to enjoy, the making of it has been captured in an upcoming documentary. I can hardly wait to see it.
And the winner is . . . STEVE CARLSON!