Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros
As with the late, great Johnny Cash, if there's a bright spot in the passing of punk-rock legend Joe Strummer (who died at age 50 earlier this year), it's that the singer, songwriter and co-founder of the Clash went out at the top of his game, resisting the lure of easy nostalgia (he refused to reunite the band that made him famous) while making some of the finest music of his career. Working with one of America's hippest indie labels and performing with a young band whose energy and globe-trotting attitude clearly inspired him, Strummer returned to music after years of inactivity with 1999's Rock Art and the X-Ray Style and last year's Global A Go-Go, both strong collections that paired his acoustic guitar and famously strangled vocals with Caribbean, South American, African, Arabic and Celtic rhythms and tonalities, essentially picking up where Sandinista! left off. Streetcore continues in this vein, but the originals are even more melodic and propulsive, and the album's centerpiece is a startlingly powerful cover of Bob Marley's "Redemption Song." Then, too, there's the added poignancy of Strummer's defiant celebrations of life. "Somewhere in my soul, there's always rock and roll!" he croaks on "Arms Aloft." We'd be hard-pressed to find a better epitaph.