6. Patty Griffin, 'American Kid'
After an innovative gospel LP (Downtown Church) and a key role in boyfriend Robert Plant's Band Of Joy, Griffin is back to her day job: singing her own artful country-folk songs. Her voice, as singer and writer, has clearly been stretched by the side projects. The haunting harmonies with Plant on "Highway Song" and "Ohio" match anything from his celebrated Raising Sand set with Alison Krauss. And Griffin somehow turns the unlikely line "God is a wild old dog/Someone left out on the highway" into a profound meditation on spirituality.