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Taken from Times Argus Online (Jan 01, 2010)

Rockin' aughts

All-star artists of the 2000s

by TOM HUNTINGTON Arts Correspondent

Aughts All-Star: The Chicago-based rock band Wilco, performing Feb. 27
at Olympia de Montréal, delivered stellar albums and live shows
throughout the 2000s. - SUBMITTED PHOTO

The 2000s have been quite a decade for pop music. Here's my highly subjective all-star list of 10 artists that shined brighter than the rest in the rockin' aughts. My criteria? Killer live shows and at least three solid albums from throughout the decade – and at least a couple Vermont performances to prove they're not too cool to include the Green Mountain State on the itinerary.


An unassuming rock standout since forming 15 years ago, Wilco is finally garnering the widespread acclaim and mainstream success it deserves. After kick-starting the decade with one of the most storied and best discs of the decade, the stellar "Yankee Hotel Foxtrot" (2002), Wilco just keeps getting better. Case in point: the excellent albums "Sky Blue Sky" (2007) and "Wilco (The Album)" (2009).

Wilco also rocked the Burlington area on a number of occasions and in a variety of venues, including Higher Ground (2001), the Flynn Center (2003) and the family filled green at Shelburne Museum (2007). Put it all together and you get my pick for all-star artist of the decade.

Wilco performs Saturday, Feb. 27, at Olympia de Montréal. Tickets are $38.50 advance, $45 at the door (Canadian; general admission; all-ages). For tickets, call 1-800-678-5440 or go online to http://www.admission.com/; for information, go to http://www.geg.ca/.

Bob Dylan

The ever-touring living legend proved his enduring brilliance with two of the decade's best albums: "Love and Theft" (2001) and "Modern Times" (2006). The bard's self-proclaimed "Never-Ending Tour" included a couple of stops at the Champlain Valley Expo in Essex Junction (2007 and 2009), and several Montreal performances.

Neko Case

One of the most compelling artists in pop, Neko Case – who now calls Vermont home – kicked some serious butt in the 2000s, delivering one acclaimed album after another while touring steadily with her own band and as a member of the Canadian power-pop group, the New Pornographers.

The indie-pop standout finally made her Vermont debut in early 2008 at Higher Ground, previewing material that wound up on her excellent 2009 album, "Middle Cyclone," a fixture on "best albums of 2009" lists. Case delivered a more reserved yet impressive performance in August at the Flynn Center.

Ryan Adams

Perhaps no other artist released as many great albums as Ryan Adams did in the 2000s. Starting with his now-classic 2000 solo debut, "Heartbreaker," the prolific roots-rock singer-songwriter delivered one gem after another. Most notable are the more polished "Gold" (2001), the gorgeous double-album "Cold Roses (2005), and the more consistent recent discs "Easy Tiger" (2007) and "Cardinology" (2008).

Area shows included a somewhat sloppy performance in 2005 at Higher Ground, where Adams and his band the Cardinals returned for a tighter yet mellower acoustic show in 2007.

Andrew Bird

An anomaly on the modern music scene, virtuoso multi-instrumentalist and singer-songwriter extraordinaire Andrew Bird has gradually carved out a singular sound that mesmerizes as much as it defies description.

Bird's albums – five during the decade — got better and more accessible with each release, culminating in his stunning, nearly year-old breakthrough album, "Noble Beast." But it's his captivating live shows – including two at Higher Ground (2007 and 2009) – that prove him to be a unique and one the most talented artists around.

My Morning Jacket

One of the best and most adventurous rock bands to emerge in the 2000s, the Louisville, Ky.-based quintet – led by soulful singer and guitarist Jim James – made a major splash on the national scene with its stellar 2003 major-label debut, "It Still Moves," and even-better 2005 follow-up, "Z," one of the decade's best releases.

Savvy Vermont fans hopefully caught one of the groove-driven band's killer Higher Ground shows in 2003, 2004 and 2005. Or perhaps its transcendent 2008 show at Le National in Montreal, a week after the release of its 2008 album, "Evil Urges."

The Roots

Long known as one of the best live bands in the business, legendary hip-hop group The Roots spent the last year of the decade in style while taking its considerable talent to new heights as the house band for "Late Night with Jimmy Fallon."

Memorable Vermont shows include the group's two Higher Ground appearances in 2007 and 2008, and of course, the recent Burlington International Waterfront Festival blowout in July. Four solid albums during the decade seal the deal.

Derek Trucks Band

One of the most brilliant guitarists around, 30-year-old Derek Trucks and his talented six-piece band have had a great decade. Live shows were seriously impressive – memorable Vermont visits include Waitsfield's Eclipse Theater in 2004, Burlington's Waterfront Park in 2008 and Rutland's Paramount Theatre in November.

Four solid studio recordings and a killer live release, 2004's "Live at Georgia Theatre, make this all-star inclusion a no-brainer.

Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings

Soul-singer extraordinaire Sharon Jones and her powerhouse nine-piece group, the Dap-Kings, released three must-have albums during the decade – the best being 2005 standout "Naturally."

But the old school-sounding Brooklyn-based band is at its best in the live setting, as evidenced by its stirring live sets at Higher Ground's Showcase Lounge in 2005 and 2007, and its recent Ballroom barnburner in November.

Michael Franti and Spearhead

Bay Area-based rebel rocker Michael Franti and his band Spearhead have been luring an ever-growing legion of diehard fans with a celebratory, dance-inducing sound that marries funky grooves and catchy melodies with pointed political lyrics and unifying themes.

Since its impressive Vermont debut at Higher Ground in 2001, the kickin' quintet has sold out with increasing quickness it relatively regular Higher Ground shows during the decade, culminating in a stellar 2008 soiree at Shelburne Museum. And, like the Roots, four solid albums seal the deal.


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