If there is a downside to reviewing music professionally, it is that you are forced to keep moving forward and extricate yourself from albums that bring pleasure time and time again.
With the arrival of 2016, I have to once again say good-bye to musicians who bumped me up, comforted me like an old friend and occasionally introduced me to feelings I didn't know I had. Thanks to all for the wonderful moments together. Hey, maybe we can get together for an occasional spin.
Here are several albums that I most regret having to pull out of the daily playlist. Not exactly a Top Ten, but love never fits the categories we want it to.
Ludovico Einaudi - The Taranta Project. I had no knowledge of this northern Italian minimalist composer, but his venture into the music of southern Italy was a revelation: a blend of folk, classical, pop and world.
Buena Vista Social Club, Lost and Found. I was ready to dismiss this as just a release of obscurities that deservedly didn't make the cut when the band was at its most popular, but these unreleased tracks were truly buried treasures that don't diminish the group's legacy.
Patricia Vonne - Viva Bandolera. This Austin-based rocker has released several albums and like Los Lobos, has always included a few Spanish-language tunes. This compilation of those songs is a border-jumping mix, but announce her strong presence in a way befitting the woman who strutted into audience's attention as "Zorro Girl" in her brother Robert Rodriguez' Sin City.
Banda de los Muertos - Banda de los Muertos. This group reverently recreates bouncy Mexican banda music and was created by two Brooklyn-based musicians who met playing with - what else? - a Balkan brass band. Keeping the hipster irony to a minimum, the group uses its jazz chops to create beautiful arrangements of what is essentially party music.
Canzoniere Grecanico Salentino - Quaranta. This ground-breaking group from the heel of the Italian boot marked its 40th anniversary with a fine album of traditional sounds that are made modern not through electrification, but through sophistication and craftsmanship. Beating frame drums and singing soulfully, the group embodies the working-class heart of the music, but makes it plain they are professionals.
Joan Soriano - Me Decidi. Playing bachata, the country cousin of merengue in the Dominican Republic, Soriano left the family farm and is now playing stages around the world, even bringing along some of his 15 siblings. While bachata is traditionally known for a blues-like streak of "amargue" or bitterness, Soriano's acoustic version leans toward the sunny side of the street.
Natalie Lafourcade - Hasta La Raiz. This Mexican singer-songwriter has had a slow but steady rise to the top of Latin charts with her dreamy, just-short-of-quirky pop. Her girl-ish, naif voice belies grown-up lyrics and some sophisticated arrangements.
Nation Beat - Carnival Caravan - Bandleader Scott Kettner's original mission was to meld rural northeastern Brazilian music with rural southeastern American music, but expands the formula by teaming up with New Orleans' Cha Wa. It's not a full-length album, but does deliver percussion-driven, carnival-flavored big fun.