The fourth installment in the list of albums I acquired this year:July Trish Murphy, Crooked Mile (1998) I bought it at Second Spin for $4 based solely on design and track listing. Every now and then you get lucky like that, and though this isn't a fantastic album, there are a couple decent tracks, like "Date With an Angel," that made it worth the purchase. Gin Blossoms, Dusted (1989) This is the band's first album, released indepently and it's great to hear the origin of their sound and listen to the raw, quicker, unpolished stuff that would later become so definitive of early-1990s pop. The early versions of "Cajun Song" (a favorite) and "Found Out About You" are awesome. Jon Nolan, When the Summers Lasted Long (2005) Impulse buy after hearing a couple tracks on Pandora. (And I just wanted to buy an album with my iPhone. Sorry.) Still, not too bad. Various Artists, The Wire: ... And All the Pieces Matter (2008) Good songs and great dialogue cuts from the best show in history. It's got all the versions of the theme song, "Way Down in the Hole," as well as the Pogues' "Body of an American," which I demand be played at my funeral while my friends drunkenly carouse in the aisles. Hal Ketchum, Past the Point of Rescue (1991) Nabbed it in the clearance rack for $2 solely because I've had the title track stuck in my head since I was 9 years old. (I am not lying. My mom listened to country radio when we were kids, so if it charted from Nashville between 1987-1995, I know it.) And it's still a fun song, as is "Small Town Saturday Night." It was a total flashback buy, and a good one. Emmylou Harris, Pieces of the Sky (1975) Emmylou Harris went on a flawless run of records from 1975-81 or so, and this is one of those. Damn, but there's some good stuff here, like "Boulder to Birmingham" or the honky-tonk laments "If I Could Only Win Your Love" and "Bottle Let Me Down." A wonderful album. Mark Olson and the Original Harmony Ridge Creekdippers, Pacific Coast Rambler (1998) A quiet but often beautiful album from one of the founding members of The Jayhawks. Merle Haggard, Roots: Volume 1 (2001) It's always great when classic artists return to the styles and sounds that were big back in the day. This album is simple, honest, and completely great. It's nothing but Merle doing vintage songs by Hank Williams and Lefty Frizzell, like "Hey Good Lookin'" and "Always Late With Your Kisses." Good stuff. The Blind Boys of Alabama, Higher Ground (2002) A great gospel album worth buying just for the opener, "People Get Ready." Steve Earle and the Dukes, The Hard Way (1990) Another decent one that I picked up just to add to my Earle collection. Kasey Chambers and Shane Nicholson, Rattlin' Bones (2008) This is easily one of my favorites of the year. Stripped-down bluegrass and country with sweet, heartbreaking lyrics. The one-two knockout of "Once in a While" and "Sweetest Waste of Time" never fails to get me, but there's also the upbeat stomper "The House That Never Was" and several other great tracks. There's even a hidden cut at the end with Kasey and Shane's toddler warbling the chorus of "No Depression." All around wonderful.