2013 music picks for Christmas

The cover of Jonathan Wilson's new album, "Fanfare."
Downtown Records

(CBS News)  MTV's Bill Flanagan offers tips on what to give the music lovers on your list:

Pop music has become like movies -- either you're a big-budget blockbuster or you're an art house indie.

There are plenty of musical blockbusters this Christmas season, but I'm going to guess that if the person you are buying for likes Lady Gaga, One Direction or Eminem, they already have their new records. Let's look at some of the great stuff that has gotten less attention.

Jonathan Wilson is a young musician with an old soul.  If you miss the glory days of The Byrds, Pink Floyd, and Crosby Stills Nash & Young, his new album "Fanfare" (Downtown Records) is for you.  In fact, David Crosby, Graham Nash, the Heartbreakers and Jackson Browne join in, sounding just like themselves.

This is the rare album that you put on and listen to from start to finish. "Fanfare" by Jonathan Wilson -- a perfect gift for hippies old and young.

Jonathan Wilson at Downtown Records


One of my favorite records of the year is the soundtrack to the Coen Brothers' "Inside Llewyn Davis" (Nonesuch). The film is about a 1961 folksinger, and I expected the soundtrack to be like "A Mighty Wind" -- a tongue-in-cheek riff on corny old cliches.  

Instead, the Coens and producer T-Bone Burnett give us a sincere reminder of why millions of people were moved by the folk revival of 50 years ago.  

As they did on the soundtrack to "O Brother, Where Art Thou?," T-Bone and the Coens make that old time music sound new.

"Inside Llewyn Davis" soundtrack at Nonesuch Records


Warner Music Nashville
 A lot of current country tells you how country it is in the lyrics, while the music sounds like classic rock. Maybe they protest too much.  

Ashley Monroe is real country.  On her album, "Like a Rose" (Warner Music Nashville), she moves from Dolly Parton delicacy to Tammy Wynette spunk while proving to be a complete original.  

She delivers a pregnant woman's lament called "I'm a Dollar Short and Two Weeks Late" like she feels the pain and gets the joke at the same time. She's got a heart like Dixie.

Ashley Monroe at Warner Music Nashville

What to get for the uncle or cousin who already has every box set by every act active during the Johnson, Nixon and Ford administrations?  "Taj Mahal: The Complete Columbia Albums Collection" (Sony Legacy).  Fifteen CDs, everything the great man did between his 1968 debut and 1975.  

Taj Mahal was only about 25 when he started recording, but lots of us thought he was some old blues man from the Delta.  No, he was a bright young college grad who had made a study of roots music.  As his career moved along, Taj was in the vanguard of mixing African sounds, reggae, even Hawaiian music into his repertoire.  To him, it was all connected.

Anyone on your Christmas list who likes Eric Clapton or Bonnie Raitt will be tickled to find Taj Mahal under the tree.

"Taj Mahal: The Complete Columbia Albums Collection" at Sony Legacy


Sony Legacy

There are superstar anthologies, too, of course.  There is a box set of every Paul Simon solo album, and a new collection of The Beatles at the BBC (Capitol).  

If you are moved to max out your credit card, there's a 34-CD Herbie Hancock box that includes some albums I never knew existed (they only came out in Japan), and a 42-CD collection of "The Complete Bob Dylan."  Break Santa's back, why don'cha?

"Paul Simon: Complete Album Collection" (Sony Legacy)
"The Beatles: On Air, Live at the BBC, Vol. 2" (Capitol)
"Herbie Hancock: The Complete Columbia Album Collection 1972-1988" (Sony Legacy)
"Bob Dylan: The Complete Album Collection Vol. 1" (Sony Legacy)

Christmas comes but once a year. The bills, however, seem to last forever.   Have a great holiday!