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Top Artist Of The Year
Kendra's Picks
We’ve been talking about Eliot Morris almost since the day we launched this site.  Even though he’s only released one new CD since then, his commitment to his career is starting to pay off.  Take, for example, opening slots for the likes of Anna Nalick, Counting Crows, Goo Goo Dolls, and Will Hoge, as well as an upcoming tour supporting Bob Schneider.  And if anyone deserves success, Morris does.  He writes incredible songs, surrounds himself with amazing musicians, and is genuinely a nice guy.  He cares about his fans, responding to their emails himself, greeting them after shows, and taking the time for autographs and photos.  If only every major label artist were as down to earth as Morris, maybe then people would actually turn on the radio and hear songs they like; or buy a CD instead of burning a copy from a friend.
2. Garrison Starr  
I just can’t say enough about Garrison Starr.  Phenomenal voice, amazing lyrics, beautiful harmonies, unstoppable energy, and a huge heart to go along with it.  She’s the real deal, folks, and you need to be listening to her.  The melodies will touch your soul and make you feel, once again, that music is good, that there are women who rock, and that you can do more with an acoustic guitar than just play folk tunes. 
3. Neilson Hubbard
This guy seems to do it all.   In addition to producing two of my favorite CDs in 2006 (Garrison Starr’s The Sound of You and Me and Glen Phillips’ Mr. Lemons), Hubbard also is one of the founding voices of Strays Don’t Sleep, one of my top new finds.  And as if that weren’t enough, he has a solo music career as well, full of beautiful songs just waiting to be discovered by the masses!  With all that going for him, it’s not a big surprise that Hubbard has a spot on my Top 7 list.
4. Glen Phillips  
Phillips was very busy in 2006, releasing both a full-length CD and an EP of rarities, finally giving fans a chance to hear his recorded version of favorites “The Hole” and “The Innocent.”  He toured extensively behind those efforts before fans were treated to another Toad the Wet Sprocket reunion this past summer.  Phillips then headed of to Europe with his family to spend the rest of the year.  While there, he gave his fans across the pond a chance to hear him live for the first time in many years.  Now he’s back in the states, preparing for a headlining tour that starts in February.  Definitely take the opportunity to see him as you never know when he’s going to leave us again.
5. Josh Radin

As I’ve said before, Josh Radin writes beautiful songs.  That alone would be enough to put him into consideration for The List, but what earns him a spot is his unflinchingly honest lyrics, his gorgeous harmonies, and his non-stop touring.  Touring with the likes of Anna Nalick and Vienna Teng, Radin hit major cities across the U.S., much to the delight of his ever-growing fan base.  He also performed on late night TV, had his music placed on popular television programs, and was on the soundtrack of the hit movie, “The Last Kiss.”  And if that wasn’t enough, he also played as part of The Hotel Café tour in late 2006 with friends Cary Brothers, Jim Bianco, and Schuyler Fisk.  This man has accomplished a lot and doesn’t appear to be stopping anytime soon.  Another tour is in the works as are more television appearances, so keep you eyes and ears open.  You’re bound to hear Radin at some point.

6. Griffin House
In 2006, Griffin House gave his fans not one, not two, but three new compilations, much to the delight of listeners.    For those of us waiting for a recorded version of “The Guy Who Says Goodbye To You Is Out Of His Mind,” finally having a copy in our hands is reason enough for a Top 7 mention.  When all the other great songs are added to it, including new versions of some old favorites, it’s easy to see why House makes the cut.
7. Jason Kanakis
You may not know the name "Jason Kanakis," but if you've seen Cary Brothers or Josh Radin on tour this year, or attended one of the Hotel Cafe tour shows, you've seen him.  He's the tall Greek guy on guitar (and sometimes bass) and backing vocals who makes being a rock star look so easy.  With his amazing playing ability and lush harmonies, Kanakis knows how to entertain the crowd and can sometimes steal the show.  But his talent doesn't end there.  In 2005 and 2006, Kanakis stepped into the role as emcee during the Hotel Cafe tour.  Taking the mic and filling the down time with his witty banter, he made sure the shows stayed on track and the audience was engaged.   Not an easy task to do with a room full of 200+ people.  To top it all off, Kanakis also gave fans a taste of his solo material when he released a tune on his MySpace page, proving that he's more than a support musician and worthy of a Top 7 spot.
Kathy's Picks
1. Nickel Creek
This trio may win the “Hardest Working Band” award. In 2006, they released their 3rd studio release (which is killer), and toured the world in support of it.  Nickel Creek’s showcases both at SXSW and Lollapalooza were definite highlights of my year. The various members of NC also found time to work on solo projects, and lend their talents to other great CDs (i.e., Eliot Morris’ What’s Mine Is Yours; Glen Phillips’s Mr. Lemons). Their music and popularity cuts across all musical genres, labels and stereotypes. If you are a true music lover, it’s a safe bet that you are (or will be) a fan of Nickel Creek. The band is taking a well-deserved break from touring together until this spring. However, keep your keep your eyes and ears open for their individual projects as they continue to develop their musical abilities.
2. Chris Walla
Walla’s middle name just might be 'Midas' because everything he touches tends to turn to gold.  Best known as guitarist/keyboardist for the super popular group, Death Cab for Cutie, Walla is also an extremely talented producer. His recent production credits include the last two DCFC albums, The Decemberists, Nada Surf, and Hot Hot Heat.  This year, Walla is using his talents to write, perform and produce his own material, which will come out on the Barsuk label (DCFC’s first label).  To top it off, Walla is an animal activist, a vegetarian, and is a fan of public radio…perfect!
3. David Berkeley
Berkeley is a Brooklyn-based singer/songwriter with a vivid imagination, love of language, and heartbreakingly lovely voice.  His songs are the equivalent of a good book you just can’t put down…over and over. This year, Berkeley released a live CD that helped to capture the comaradie he shares with his band mates and his audience. I had the honor of hosting two memorable house concerts for him to the enjoyment of a very appreciative audience.  After hearing some new tunes, I’m anxiously awaiting a new CD that, I have a strong feeling, will appear on next year’s Top 7 list. He even had time this year to become a new dad. Now that’s busy!
4. Eliot Morris
Morris showed up on last year’s list of top artists, but he deserves a mention this year as well. After more than a few stops and starts, Morris released his major label debut, What’s Mine Is Yours.  To the happy delight of his fans, the end result was definitely worth the wait.  His songwriting style is both sensual and accessible, and often times, hopeful without being saccharine. His stage presence is undeniably appealing.  And that appeal grows exponentually when you get to know him offstage. He’s had a busy year on the road including playing a memorable SXSW showcase and supporting popular musicians like Nickel Creek, Will Hoge and Counting Crows. This past year, Morris has inspired many a WayCoolMusic road trip (e.g., Alabama, Texas, New Hampshire) that’ll go down as some of the best moments of 2006. 
5. Aqualung 
This is the kind of band that sounds great recorded – atmospheric melodies and provocative lyrics sung by a front man with a beautiful voice.  But, experiencing the band live takes their music to an entirely different level.  I had the chance to see Aqualung in three very different settings; a cushy seated theatre, a rock venue, and huge stage at Lollapalooza.  Each time, the band made a distinct impression on me…and the rest of the audience.  Matt Hales (front man, heart/soul of Aqualung) leads this group of uber talented musicians (including his brother Ben on guitar) whom clearly enjoy making music together.  To top it off, the Hales brothers possess that wickedly dry British wit that leaves me smiling even after the music fades.
6. Garrison Starr
A modern female rock star, Starr has been impressing colleagues and fans alike with her aggressive guitar playing, heartfelt lyrics and a pitch-perfect voice.  This past year, I’ve seen Starr share the stage with some of my favorite people (e.g., Glen Phillps, David Berkeley, Neilson Hubbard). Added to that list, she has the distinction of being the first performer I saw at my first SXSW festival.  She’s gracious, honest, and is a damn funny storyteller. I predict great things from her and for her in the coming year.
7. John Vanderslice 

As an ambassador for old school, analog recordings, Vanderslice’s music is so layered and textured, it’s almost a tactile experience. His latest CD, Pixel Revolt, is a collection of raw, honest and touching lyrics that are truly affecting. His live performances are high-energy celebrations of harmonious sound that last long after the show is over.  Post-show, Vanderslice is a bundle of firing neurons, ready to bust a move with anyone who will join in his Dance Party. After hearing the music for the first time, you'll wonder how you ever got along without it. He is one of the most charming, polite and gracious rock stars I’ve ever had the pleasure to hang with.