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So, what is ``Un poquito quema'o'? And who is Sergent Garcia? I didn't know either, until I looked at the top picks of a panel of local music experts.

We asked them to give us lists of the best music CDs of the year: blues to bluegrass, jazz to hip-hop, classical to country.Some selections are expected, such as Limp Bizkit's ``Chocolate Starfish and the Hot Dog Flavored Water,' Dixie Chicks' ``Fly' and OutKast's ``Stankonia.' But other selections are true finds. I mean, who had heard of Garcia's ``Un poquito quema'o'?

The top picks show you can find good music almost anywhere, even in Pinnacle, a small town north of Winston-Salem. There, you can find a 74-year-old man who goes by the name of ``Captain Luke' sitting on a front porch, smoking a thin cigar and rumbling from the back of his throat, ``You know what I'm talking about.'

May these top picks help you find that last-minute stocking stuffer or give you something new to look for on your next trip to the record store.



Radio personality with WQMG (97.1 FM)

1. ``Mama's Gun,' Erykah Badu. The crusader of sisterhood and champion of female anthems has taken it to another level. A must-get.

2. ``Who Is Jill Scott?,' Jill Scott. Like her mentor, Erykah Badu, Jill Scott has released a feel-good CD for all women. Great production.

3. ``Mountain High, Valley Low,' Yolanda Adams. The princess of contemporary gospel hits this one out of the park.

4. ``TP2.COM,' R. Kelly. Takes you from the club to the boudoir in one CD.

5. ``Lover's Rock,' Sade. Put this CD in, make a tropical drink and let your imagination take over.

6. ``The Heat,' Toni Braxton. Smooth, sultry and just plain bad, Ms. Baltimore puts all the rumors behind and really goes to work.

7. ``Nathan, Michael, Shawn, Wanya,' Boyz II Men. The fellas go back to their roots of Philly and come back with a project that made them one of the hottest acts of the mid-'90s.

8. ``My Name Is Joe,' Joe. For a young man, he's captured the ear and hearts of adults. Look out, Brian McKnight.

9. ``Phoenix Rising,' The Temptations. More than 40 years of recording smashes ... need I say more?

10. ``Emotional,' Carl Thomas. For a debut CD, very impressive. Pop this in and just leave it.


Radio personality known as Scholar Brad at WKZL (107.5 FM)

1. ``Ultimate Collection,' Steel Pulse. Irie Mon! reggae is what I listen to when I go home at 3 a.m. and talk to redheads on the Internet.

2. ``Chocolate Starfish and the Hot Dog Flavored Water,' Limp Bizkit. This makes me want to drive 120 mph on I-85 through Davidson County.

3. ``Ultimix,' Ultimix. If you go to a dance club anywhere in the world, you are hearing Ultimix. I used to play their stuff when I did radio on Guam.

4. ``Stile Libero,' Eros Ramazzotti. The Italian version. Belissimo!

5. ``Marc Anthony,' Marc Anthony. That's window-steaming music! I can't understand what he's saying, but it pushes all of a woman's buttons.

6. ``The Marshall Mathers LP,' Eminem. What a negative, dysfunctional, small-minded idiot. But you have to admit that the music is genius. Get past the lyrics and really listen to the music.

7. ``Supernatural,' Santana. This CD reminds me of my mom's old record changer andmy dad mowing the lawn. It's true California summertime music.

8 and 9. ``Now That's What I Call Music, Volume 4' and ``Now That's What I Call Music, Volume 5,' various artists. I like these two CDs because you get only the good songs from these artists without having to wade through all the harmonic distortions.

10. ``Fly,' Dixie Chicks. I heard this story about a farmer who played DixieChicks for his pigs. The neighbors didn't like it, but the pigs did. I can now sing the Chicks' song ``Sin Wagon' in my sleep. Don't ask me why.


Editor of the Lonely Goat, a magazine and Web site,, that tracks the jam-band scene regionally and nationally.

1. ``Ladies and Gentlemen...The Grateful Dead!,' The Grateful Dead. Four discs of music from the Dead's five-night performance to close Bill Graham's Fillmore East in April 1971.

2. ``L,' moe. An incredible band at the height of its powers. Two CDs of livemusicianship.

3. ``Carnival '99,' The String Cheese Incident. Two CDs of the finest moments during the 1999 Winter Carnival Tour.

4. ``Another Joyous Occasion,' Widespread Panic. The Georgia jam kings' eighth release and second live release chronicles the fall 1999 tour with the Dirty Dozen Brass Band.

5. ``Croakin' at Toad's,' Frogwings. This all-star effort really works. Features members of the Allman Brothers Band, Blues Traveler, Aquarium Rescue Unit and more.

6. ``Crazy Little Life,' Acoustic Syndicate. The third effort from these Shelby boys serves as an exclamation point to all the good things that have already been said about the group.

7. ``Farmhouse,' Phish. New bands used to play Grateful Dead covers to get the crowd going. Now they play Phish.

8. ``Geode,' The Recipe. Appalachian-grown primal acoustic roots music with a little funk for good measure.

9. ``Positive Friction,' Donna The Buffalo. Arguably the kings of the festival vibe. This latest release meets every expectation of longtime Donna the Buffalo fans.

10. ``The Pizza Tapes,' Jerry Garcia, David Grisman, Tony Rice. Rumored to be a basement tape stolen by the pizza delivery guy, this folk-bluegrass CD jump-started the Deadhead community, which I believe needed a boost.

VALERIE JONES\ Co-producer for ``Spot TV,' a music and variety show on GCTV

1. ``Let's Get Free,' Dead Prez. This album reflects a culture that is screaming to be heard. Dead Prez uses this CD to teach social consciousness to its listeners.

2. ``Emotional,' Carl Thomas. This is a favorite. I find it hard not to listen to this CD to the point I know each song verbatim.

3. ``Mama's Gun,' Erykah Badu. Her topics seem more personal than before. Erykah Badu, creative and talented, is taking her unique style to still another level.

4. ``Stankonia,' OutKast. I love this CD. OutKast has such a strange style. These artists from Atlanta have a Southern flava that is hard to find in the New York artists. The drawl sounds nice when accompanied by tight arrangements and tracks.

5. ``Infinite Possibilities,' by Amel Larrieux. Amel Larrieux, originally with Groove Theory, has gone solo and not a minute too soon. Larrieux and her husband/producer, Laru Larrieux, are a perfect combination. Her smooth voice has no limit.

6. ``Who Is Jill Scott?,' Jill Scott. Jill Scott is spreading love all around. This sister has many talents. Not only does Scott have her own style, she also has a rich, smooth voice that expresses real-life circumstances.

7. ``Reflection Eternal,' Talib Kweli & Hitek. Positive lyrics, tight production and live instruments: The ingredients make this CD one you can play at the dinner table.

8. ``The Sign,' Cleayott. Cleayott brings us home with a local feel. This independent CD was cultivated and released right here in Greensboro. ``The Sign' actually brings serious situations to the forefront in a Southern hip-hop style.

9. 'Chronic 2001,' Dr. Dre. The genius of Dr. Dre puts me in a trance. This CD has special appearances by such guests as Snoop Dog and Eminem.

10. ``Un poquito quema'o,' Sergent Garcia. The high-spirited Afro-Cuban vibe makes me want to move. This CD has inspired me to learn Spanish and opened me up to other genres.

BILLY ``THE KID OF THE BLUES' HUNT AND JOHN AMBERG\ Members of the Piedmont Blues Preservation Society. Amberg is the president; Hunt is the host of the ``Blues Hangover' show on WNAA (90.1 FM).

1. ``The Door,' Keb' Mo'. The award-winning bluesman Keb' Mo' does it again with this new release that is guaranteed to soothe the modern soul.

2. ``Reservation Blues,' Eddy ``The Chief' Clearwater. Duke Robillard and his band back this 65-year-old blues guitarist and songwriter on what might be his finest work yet.

3. ``The Screamin' Cat,' Omar and the Howlers. This CD is not of the mainstream blues-rock that Omar and the Howlers are known for. Yet it delivers a heavy Southern swamp and R&B combination that is sure to touch every blues bone in your body.

4. ``Levee Town,' Sonny Landreth. This CD brings out the best in Sonny's songwriting ability and merges a wonderful mix of Cajun, zydeco and Mississippi Delta blues in his songs.

5. ``Healing Time,' by Ronnie Earl. This CD may be more suited to the jazz lover, but blues fans will thoroughly enjoy ``Catfish Blues,' an homage to Muddy Waters, the man who inspired Earl to pick up his guitar in the first place.

6. ``Ridin' With the King,' BB King and Eric Clapton. BB King has been accused of coasting in his later years, and Eric Clapton has produced some genuinely dreadful albums in the past decade, but this exceptional release more than lives up to its star billing.

7. ``Wicked,' Shemekia Copeland. This young lady is sounding more and more like this generation's answer to Etta James.

8. ``The Big B.A.M.,' Blues-A-Matic. The Triad's own Blues-A-Matic scores with a triumphant melding of musical styles that is the party album of the year.

9. ``Rollin' Into Memphis: The Songs of John Hiatt,' various artists. Although slightly uneven, as most tribute CDs are, this CD has just enough great renditions of some of John Hiatt's more obscure work to make this release fascinating.

10. ``Dot Com Blues,' Jimmy Smith. One of the finest organists ever to sit behind a keyboard.

SHERRY BOYD\ Radio personality at WPAQ (740 AM).

1. ``The Grass Is Blue,' Dolly Parton. Dolly can quit apologizing for performing bluegrass. Featuring her teamed with a band of bluegrass all-stars, this album won the Album of the Year award from the International Bluegrass Music Association.

2. ``Ancient Tones,' Ricky Skaggs. One of the best and busiest ambassadors of bluegrass music. The music is safe with Ricky because of his superior knowledge, respect and passion for the music.

3. ``Blue Highway,' Blue Highway. Probably the best group at introducing new songs that sound like they've always been around.

4. ``Nickel Creek,' Nickel Creek. Produced by Alison Krauss and winners of the IBMA Emerging Artists of the Year award. Vocal arrangements completely draw you into their music. The instrumentals are masterpieces.

5. ``Dan the Man,' Dan Tyminski. Sounds especially sweet with his brother Stan on one selection on this beautiful collection. Whatever Dan adds to a song - be it vocals, instruments or production - he turns the song into something extraordinary.

6. ``Back Home Again,' Rhonda Vincent. Rhonda performs bluegrass with conviction and has since she was a child performer with her family.

7. ``They Always Deliver,' Seldom Scene. The best yet from this group. They deliver variety and excitement that we've learned to expect.

8. ``John and Mary,' IIIrd Tyme Out. One of bluegrass music's best success stories after several members left Doyle Lawson's group, Quicksilver. The song ``John and Mary' is a perfect example of how unafraid these guys are of trying something different.

9. ``In the Blue Room,' Alan Bibey. Another North Carolina ``good ol' boy.' Alan will dazzle you with his mandolin playing while paying respect to mandolin heroes. Alan sings more than ever on this project, particularly with Del McCoury on a really cool ``Country Fool.'

10. ``Bad Moon Shining,' Dave Evans. After a six-year prison term for assault, we hear the songs he wrote and why. We hear more guitar playing by Dave than usual because he wasn't allowed to play the banjo in prison. That's got to be a joke.

KIMBERLEA DAGGY\ Music director for WFDD (88.5 FM)

1. ``Beethoven: The Symphonies,' Berlin Philharmonic, Claudio Abbado, conductor. Recorded earlier this year, this five-disc set of all nine symphonies by Beethoven reveals the extraordinary relationship among the musicians of what is arguably the world's finest orchestra.

2. ``Historical Recording 1954-1965,' Fritz Wunderlich. The disc highlights an incredible musician whose skyrocketing career was cut short by a fateful fall down a stone staircase.

3. ``Debussy: Complete works for solo piano, volume 2,' Jean-Yves Thibaudet. I always enjoy Thibaudet's interpretation of French music on piano. His fiery technical skill and sensitive touch show a deep understanding of the poster child of French musical Impressionism.

4. ``Mahler: Symphony No. 4,' Cleveland Orchestra, Pierre Boulez, conductor. Mahler is known for his huge orchestrations, long symphonies and dramatic expression. This symphony points to a lighter side of the Bohemian-Viennese composer.

5. ``The essence of America - Aaron Copland,' San Francisco Symphony, Michael Tilson Thomas, conductor. This three-disc set includes some of Copland's most beloved music and a commentary on the President of American Composers by Thomas.

6. ``Telemann: String concertos,' Musica Antiqua Cologne, Reinhard Goebel, conductor. These concertos are beautifully played by an ensemble that has dedicated itself for almost 30 years to playing 18th-century music.

7. ``Debussy, Ravel, Prokofiev,' Emmanuel Pahud, flute, Stephen Kovacevich, piano, with Katarina Karneus, mezzo-soprano, and Truls Mork, cello. Pahud played principal flute with the Berlin Philharmonic and left that ensemble to pursue a solo career. His sensitive playing of this music from the early 20th century tells me he made a good decision.

8. ``Schumann: Piano concerto, Piano quintet,' Maria Joao Pires, piano. Chamber Orchestra of Europe, Claudio Abbado, conductor. You'll hear a happy marriage between great recorded sound and insightful, expressive playing.

9. ``Palestrina: Motets for the season of Christmas,' The Palestrina Choir, Michael Harrison, director. Transport yourself back a few hundred years and hear the Christmas story told by the unaccompanied voices of an ensemble specializing in music from the Renaissance.

10. ``A New Century Christmas.' New Century Saxophone Quartet and guests. How many different ways can you play Christmas carols? This award-winning ensemble from the N.C. School of the Arts asked composers to rewrite favorite carols. The result? Something a little different for the person who has everything.


Jazz music director at WNAA (90.1 FM)

1. ``Prime Directive,' Dave Holland Quintet. Bassist Dave Holland works with musicians who are at the top of their game and presents some of the best ensemble playing you're likely to hear.

2. ``A Bite of the Apple - Beatle Jazz.' Brian Melvin on drums, Charles Fambrough on bass and Dave Kikoski on piano release a nine-track CD that brings fresh interpretations to diverse selections from The Beatles' songbook.

3. ``The Melody at Night With You,' Keith Jarrett. This is excellent work in solo piano playing. Releases of this kind tend to be self-indulgent, but Jarrett's exquisite playing results in an intimate and romantic feel that is beautiful to listen to.

4. ``Soulcall,' Nnenna Freelon. The songs include selections written by Stevie Wonder, Nat King Cole and Burt Bacharach. A vocalist with Durham roots, Freelon stays in command and out in front regardless of the material. This is the best release of her career.

5. ``Nick\ Night,' Nicholas Payton. This is ``contemporary jazz' played in a traditional style.

6. ``Woody Shaw Live, Volume One,' Woody Shaw. Shaw died in 1989. The late trumpeter plays here in a previously unreleased live recording from 1977. The four-track release, with no track shorter than 11 minutes, is filled with bold and confident improvisations.

7. ``Puerto Rico Jazz Jam.' Listener requests at WNAA make this Latin release on AJ Records, an obscure but burgeoning label, one of the sleeper hits of the year.

8. ``Shout Me Out!' Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra. When done well, big-band recordings give listeners an unparalleled experience. Done poorly and a big-band recording can sound like a mess. This CD is done so well, it has to be listed in the top 10.

9. ``In the Moment,' Dianne Reeves. Reeves' voice touches the soul, as her studio recordings reveal. This live recording captures the magical ambience this eclectic singer creates.

10. ``That's Funky,' Benny Golson Quintet. Ranges from standards such as ``Mack the Knife,' ``Moanin',' and ``Work Song' to original compositions; listeners can feel the enjoyment these stellar musicians create during this recording.

PATRICK KELLY\ Music buyer for David Sheppard Instruments & Repairs

1. ``Stiff Upper Lip,' AC/DC. The world's least glamorous band has stuck to its guns for a quarter-century and bashed out its own brand of no-frills, full-volume rock 'n' roll. This latest release is guaranteed to put a smile or smirk on most anyone's face.

2. ``Stalemate/Fear Not for Man,' Fela Kuti. Now that the great Fela is dead, MCA has seen fit to release - for the first time - some of his best albums from the '70s. This CD includes two of this Nigerian bandleader's extreme funk masterpieces from 1977.

3. ``Jobim,' Quarteto Morelenbaum. Cellist Jaques Morelenbaum has assembled this foursome, which specializes in the music of the late Tom Jobim. This group has arranged many favorites into a beautifully sparse but intimate setting.

4. ``Eu Tu Eles,' Gilberto Gil. This soundtrack from the film of the same name is a style of dance music from northeastern Brazil called forro. It's accordion-driven dance music similar to North American zydeco, only about a hundred times funkier.

5. ``Motorcycle Cowboy Live at Billy Bob's,' Merle Haggard. The greatest name in real country music. This has about all the favorites from the Merle songbook.

6. ``The Night,' Morphine. Lucky for us Morphine had one more studio album in thecan before the untimely death of frontman Mark Sandman. It's a beautiful swan song.

7. ``Heavy Construction,' King Crimson. This live boxed set was recorded during the group's European tour this past summer. Quality, quantity. It's a complete overview of yet another evolution of one of the world's most intriguing bands.

8. ``Crazy Little Life,' Acoustic Syndicate. North Carolina's Acoustic Syndicate is fusing a diverse range of influences and styles to create something unique.

9. ``1,' The Beatles. No more hunting around. Here they are: every No. 1 single in the band's history on one CD.

10. ``When Angels Speak of Love,' Sun Ra & Myth Science Arkestra. Recorded in 1963 when Sun Ra and his Arkestra were still residing in New York, this legendary album has been one of his hardest to find until now. Kudos to the Evidence label for reissuing it.


Radio personality at WTQR (104.1 FM)

1. ``Fly,' Dixie Chicks. ``Eighteen million albums sold' has to say something. They have shown the world it is cool to be country. Thanks, gals!

2. ``I Hope You Dance,' Lee Ann Womack. Truly inspirational, both the song and the success Womack has achieved with it. She's from Davidson County. Plus, the title cut is co-written by Tia Sellers, a graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill.

3. ``Breathe,' Faith Hill. Hill's success has brought new awareness and new fans to country music. This is an all-around great listen no matter what style you like.

4. ``Who Needs Pictures,' Brad Paisley. Few folks know that Paisley debuted this album at Greensboro's Paisley Pineapple restaurant before it hit stores. He is the future of country music.

5. ``George Strait,' George Strait. It's George Strait!!!!!

6. ``Greatest Hits,' Kenny Chesney. This guy has come such a long way. You can hear it all, from the beginning of his career to the present, on this one.

7. ``Tattoos & Scars,' Montgomery/Gentry. Let's see ... they knocked Brooks & Dunn off their Duo of the Year throne awarded by the Country Music Association. And they ``party all night long,' as their song goes. They are the bad boys of country music.

8. ``The Whole SHe Bang,' SHe Daisy. The CD spent 82 weeks on the Billboard Hot 100 album chart and remains in the Top 20. That's longer than Faith Hill and that other girl trio. Impressive.

9. ``Change,' Sons of the Desert. These guys are soooo talented. I've worn out this CD. They won a Country Music Award this year as the background singers on ``I Hope You Dance' with Lee Ann Womack. They have written hit songs for tons of superstars and their own stuff is just great.

10. ``Burn,' Jo Dee Messina. Her incredible voice can hold a candle to the best in any format, and her always-present smile is addictive.


Entertainment writer at the News & Record

1. ``Outsider Lounge Music,' Captain Luke & Cool John. Captain Luke, better known as Luke Mayer, is the best male singer in the Triad. He teams up with John Ferguson, a transplant from South Carolina, to put out an exquisite-sounding CD recorded in an old farmhouse in Pinnacle.

2. ``Liquored Up and Lacquered Down,' Southern Culture on the Skids. Rick Miller's first recording effort at his home studio in Mebane is a keeper. Just give me a long, two-lane road with ``I Learned to Dance in Mississippi' cranked way loud.

3. ``Foundation: The Doc Watson Guitar Instrumental Collection 1964-1998,' Doc Watson. This CD from Durham's Sugar Hill label shows why so many musicians respect Doc Watson.

4. ``The Pizza Tapes,' Jerry Garcia, David Grisman, Tony Rice. Wentworth's Tony Rice is the Eric Clapton of bluegrass guitar. This release only enhances his reputation.

5. ``Pop Til You Drop,' various artists. The compilation from Graham's S'More Records, a subsidiary of Yep Roc Records, shows in one collection the pop music renaissance now seen in North Carolina and throughout the South.

6. ``Fringeland,' Bruce Piephoff. Greensboro's Bruce Piephoff releases a CD that has an ethereal feel not heard on his other releases. ``Something's Gotta Give' is one great song.

7. ``Antic Ocean,' Jolene. Charlotte's Jolene continues to release some of North Carolina's most haunting, mesmerizing music.

8. ``Crazy Little Life,' Acoustic Syndicate. Cleveland County's Acoustic Syndicate put out a nine-song CD that represents a bluegrass and jazz blend that's beautiful to hear.

9. ``The Big BAM,' Blues-a-Matic. The Triad's own Blues-a-Matic puts out a stellar release that delves into swing and jump blues. Recorded in a band member's basement, the release also lets Mike Wesolowski blister a harmonica.

10. ``Mercury Blues,' Kenny Roby. The former front man of Raleigh's Six String Drag puts out an even-tempo CD that talks about all things Southern: fishing, dogs and baseball.


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