by András Goldinger


Special Favorites

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HAMILTON: An American Musical: Original Broadway Cast Recording (Atlantic Records, 2 CDs) – Lin-Manuel Miranda’s sensational hip-hop musical, taking Broadway by storm. Inspired by Ron Chernow’s biography, Miranda has written tunes inspired by classic Broadway, hip-hop, rap, soul and British pop to tell this immigrant’s spectacular life. 


Courtney Barnett, Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit (Mom + Pop Records) – Lyrics that come tumbling out, filled with detailed observation, intriguing narratives and monologues, empathy and humor, all intricately tied to the rhythms and melodic lines of her music. —Australian singer/songwriter Courtney Barnett’s splendid album has it all. Read the enclosed lyrics in the booklet to get all her internal rhymes, near-rhymes, and deadpan off-the-cuff phrases. This is one of the best of the year so far, and is highly recommended.


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Bjork, Vulnicura Strings (1 Little Indian) – Bjork’s CD Vulnicura became much more powerful, mesmerizing, and operatic stripped down to just a string orchestra and her vulnerable, heartbreaking vocals.


Van Morrison, Duets: Re-working the Catalogue (RCA) – Van Morrison digs deeply into his song catalog, and brings in partners like Bobby Womack, Mavis Staples, Steve Winwood, George Benson, Gregory Porter, Natalie Cole, Mark Knopfler, and Taj Mahal.


Rhiannon Giddens, Tomorrow is My Turn (Nonesuch) – The lead vocalist, fiddler, and a founding member of the Carolina Chocolate Drops. Her first solo album is a program inspired by a pantheon of women performers.


 Don't Lose This (CD) ~ Pops Staples Cover Art Lost & Found (CD) ~ Buena Vista Social Club Cover Art The Best Of The Cutting Edge 1965 - 1966: The Bootleg Series Vol... Cover Art 

Pops Staples, Don’t Lose This (Anti) – The founder of the Staple Singers, Pops’s vocals and signature tremolo electric guitar sounds, in his last recordings, helped by Mavis Staples and Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy.


Asleep at the Wheel, Still the King: Celebrating the Music of Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys (Bismeaux Records) – An all-star tribute to the great Texas Swing master, with a different vocalist for each of the 22 tracks.


Buena Vista Social Club, Lost and Found (Nonesuch) – Wonderful live tracks and studio recordings by the original cast, many now passed away.


Jason Isbell, Something More Than Free (Thirty Tigers Records) – Jason Isbell’s songs are tuneful and catchy, yet the words can portray a life in just a few lines, full of telling details, and he sprinkles clever, poetic couplets in every tune.


Bob Dylan, THE BEST OF The Cutting Edge 1965 1966: Bootleg Series, Volume 12 (Columbia, 2 CDs) – Taking you inside the studio sessions that produced the most significant trio of albums in Dylan’s career—Bringing It All Back Home, Highway 61 Revisited and Blonde on Blonde—over a period of 14 months.


Also, Shadows in the Night (Columbia) – Dylan’s tender renditions of ballads, most associated with Sinatra, with big-band arrangements successfullyreduced to his 5-piece band with pedal steel guitar.


Epic & Top of the Polls

Kendrick Lamarr, To Pimp a Butterfly (Aftermath Records, mature language advisory) – One scholar compared it to Ta-Nehisi Coates’ breakthrough book



25 (Vinyl) ~ Adele Cover Art

Adele, 25 (XL/Columbia Records) – Adele’s follow-up to 21, is another global hit.


Eva Cassidy, Nightbird (Blix Music, 2 CDs) – After 20 years, the complete Live at Blues Alley sets (available Dec. 11)


More Voices

The Trackless Woods (CD) ~ Iris Dement Cover Art Blood (CD) ~ Lianne La Havas Cover Art

James Taylor, Before This World (Concord Music) – JT’s first collection of new songs since 2002.


Punch Brothers, The Phosphorescent Blues (Nonesuch) – Taking the classic bluegrass lineup (fiddle, banjo, mandolin, guitar, bass) into the most modern, virtuosic, “new-grass” territory.


Leon Bridges, Coming Home (Columbia) – Classic in-the-pocket R & B from the young Fort Worth singer


James McMurtry, Complicated Game (Complicated Game Records) – Songs filled with narratives worthy of short stories, condensed in song.


Iris DeMent, The Trackless Woods (Flariella Records) – Music and lyrics using the poems of Anna Akhmatova.


Benjamin Clementine, At Least for Now (Capitol Records) –Clementine’s His tenor voice has great range, and his songs weave a dramatic and incantatory spell, reminiscent of Nina Simone.


Lianne La Havas, Blood (Nonesuch) – The British singer, combining elements of folk, pop and classic R&B, and soul.


The Decemberists, What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World (Capitol) – Group leader Colin Meloy uses folk forms, like ballads and chanteys (and their old-fangled vocabulary) in inventive ways for very personal narratives and very catchy melodies.


Joanna Newsom, Divers (Drag City) – The siren-voiced harpist and songwriter expands her musical world.


Josh Ritter, Sermon on the Rocks (Thirty Tigers) – Ritter’s band puts a rocking beat behind his new songs that lifts them up to new heights. 


Laura Marling, Short Movie (Ribbon Music) – Young British folk singer’s brings in some electric guitars, drums, cello, to compelling effect.


Sufjan Stevens, Carrie & Lowell (Asthmatic Kitty Records) – A haunting and ambitious autobiographical suite of songs dedicated to his mother Carrie and his stepfather Lowell.


Seth Avett & Jessica Lea Mayfield, Sing Elliott Smith (Ramseur/Thirty Tigers Records) – The duo bring beautiful harmonies to 12 of Elliott Smith’s songs.


Alabama Shakes, Sound & Color (ATO Records) – Lead singer Brittany Howard belts, wails and croons with power with her bluesy band.


Gary Clark, Jr., The Story of Sonny Boy Slim (Warner Brothers) – Guitar-driven blues taken to new territories


Dave Rawlings Machine, Nashville Obsolete (Acony Records) – Rawlings takes the lead vocals (with Gillian Welch singing harmonies), plus fiddle, mandolin, and string section.


Jayme Stone’s Lomax Project (Borealis Records) – The banjoist pays tribute to songs collected by folklorist Alan Lomax, with superb musician friends. Nineteen wonderful songs.


Reissues and Historical

Dylan, Cash, and The Nashville Cats: A New Music City (CD) ~ Var... Cover Art Lead Belly: The Smithsonian Folkways Collection (CD) ~ Lead Belly Cover Art

Dylan, Cash and the Nashville Cats: A New Music City (Legacy, 2 CDs) – In the 1960s, rock and folk musicians discovered the fantastic session musicians in Nashville, and some splendid sessions and songs were the result.


Lead Belly, Lead Belly: The Smithsonian Folkways Collection (Smithsonian Folkways, 5 CDs & book) – The first overview of the powerful singer, songwriter with an unmistakable sound on the 12-string guitar.


Sam Phillips: The Man Who Invented Rock ‘N’ Roll (Yep Roc, 2 CDs) – A book tie-in compilation with 55 songs chosen by author Peter Guralnick to tell the story of Sun Records.



Django & Jimmie (Vinyl) ~ WILLIE / HAGGARD Cover Art Introducing Darlene Love (CD) ~ Darlene Love Cover Art

Willie Nelson & Merle Haggard, Django & Jimmie (Sony Legacy) – Two crafty veterans having fun


Darlene Love, Introducing Darlene Love (Columbia) – The girl-group vocalist from the 1960s (featured in 20 Feet from Stardom) in all new songs written for her, with big, big arrangements.


Don Henley, Cass County (Capitol Records) – Henley’s songs with strong narrative and great characters.


Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell, The Travelling Kind (Nonesuch), is just as delightful: they wrote some new songs, covered a few old ones, swing with their touring band, and sing sweet harmonies that are the best around.


Jerry Lawson, Just a Mortal Man (Red Beet Records) – The former lead vocalist of the Persuasions.


British Folk

Joy of Living: A Tribute to Ewan Maccoll (CD) ~ Various Artists Cover Art

Richard Thompson, Still (Fantasy) – Guitarist, singer and songwriter, the pioneer of English folk-rock,


Sam Lee, Fade in Time (Nest Collective) – A new generation artist still searching out and learning songs from traditional singers—many of them English Travellers—and carrying them on in fresh arrangements including fiddle, brass, strings, a women’s choir.  


Joy of Living: A Tribute to Ewan MacColl (Compass Records, 2 CDs) – Ewan MacColl (1915 – 1989) was a hardcore folk traditionalist: a singer, songwriter, and activist who invigorated the British folk revival




Reissues/Historical Releases

The Complete Concert By The Sea (CD) ~ Erroll Garner Cover Art Miles Davis At Newport 1955-1975: The Bootleg Series Vol. 4 (CD)... Cover Art

Erroll Garner, The Complete Concert by the Sea (Sony Legacy, 3 CDs) – All the music from the famous concert recorded 60 years ago.


Miles Davis, Miles Davis at Newport 1955 – 1975 (Legacy, 4 CDs) – Featuring over four hours of previously released material, featuring two of his greatest groups, all the way to electric Miles


Nu Yorica!: Culture Clash in New York City: Experiments in Latin Music 1970 - 1977 (Soul Jazz, 2 CDs) – A beautifully selected compilation of 1970s New York salsa soul, jazz, funk and folkloric Latin influences.


Ernestine Anderson, Swings the Penthouse (High Note) – A club date from 1962 in Seattle, shows her at her peak



10 Years Solo Live (4CD Boxset) ~ Brad Mehldau Cover Art Snowy Egret (CD) ~ Myra Melford Cover Art

Brad Mehldau, 10 Years Solo Live (Nonesuch, 4 CDs) – A fully mature jazz pianist taking chances in solo settings. Each CD has a theme: “Dark/Light,” “The Concert,” “Intermezzo/Rückblick,” and “E Minor/E Major.”


Red Garland Trio, Swingin’ on the Korner (Elemental, 2 CDs) – A real swinging piano date, two full sets, recorded live at the Keystone Korner, 1977. With Leroy Vinnegar on bass and “Philly” Joe Jones on drums


Vijay Iyer Trio, Break Stuff (ECM) – Pianist Vijay Iyer in his strongest setting—with his trio.


Myra Melford, Snowy Egret (Enja/Yellowbird) – Pianist Melford expansive and varied tunes for cornet, guitar, electric bass, and drums, going from meditative to edgy and assertive.


Orrin Evans, The Evolution of Oneself (Smoke Sessions Record) – Mr. Evans’s new trio with Christian McBride, bass, and Kariem Riggins, drums. A powerful set of standards and originals.


Stanley Cowell, Juneteenth (Vision Fugitive) – Commemorating the 150th anniversary of Juneteenth, Stanley Cowell has produced a solo album interweaving bits of Civil War-era tunes and hymns into beautiful themes and suites.


Aaron Diehl, Space Time Continuum (Mack Avenue Records) – A trio album, with veteran guests like Benny Golson, tenor sax and Joe Temperley, baritone sax.


Fred Hersch, Solo (Palmetto Records, $15.98) – Pianist Fred Hersch’s solo set includes Ellington, Monk, Jobim, and many originals.



Tomeka Reid Quartet (CD) ~ Tomeka Reid Quartet Cover Art

Jakob Bro Gefion (ECM Records) – An electric guitar trio that is the quietest and most contemplative album of the year, which slowly unveils soundscapes in layers of guitar with subtle bass and drum.


Tomeka Reid, Tomeka Reid Quartet (Thirsty Ear) – Ms Reid on cello, Mary Halvorson on electric guitar for a strong one-two punch on the front line, with Jason Roebke on bass and Thomas Fujiwara on drums. 


Rez Abbasi Acoustic Quartet, Intents and Purposes (Enja) – A recasts 1970s “jazz-fusion” songs into fresh  arrangements songs for acoustic guitar, vibes, bass and drums.


John Scofield, Past Present (Impulse) – Great tunes by the electric guitarist reuniting with tenor saxophonist Joe Lovano and drummer Bill Stewart.



For One to Love (CD) ~ Cecile Mclorin Salvant Cover Art Yesterday I Had the Blues: The Music of Billie (CD) ~ Jose James Cover Art

Cécile McLorin Salvant, For One to Love (Mack Avenue Records) – Her second dramatically charged album, mixing old, new, and original, backed by Aaron Dihl’s trio. There are epic versions of “The Trolley Song” and “Something’s Coming,” and she once again pays tribute to early female songsters.


Centennial tributes to Billie Holiday: Cassandra Wilson, Coming Forth by Day (Sony Legacy) &

José James, Yesterday I Had the Blues (Blue Note) –ballads with a powerful trio backing him


Tony Bennett & Bill Charlap, The Silver Lining: The Songs of Jerome Kern (Columbia) – The pianist (and his trio, plus Renee Rosnes) collaborate with Mr. Bennett. 



Bird Calls (CD) ~ Rudresh Mahanthappa Cover Art Epic (CD) ~ Kamasi Washington Cover Art

Rudresh Mahanthappa, Bird Calls (ACT) – The high flying altoist (plus trumpet, piano, bass, and drums) celebrates Charlie Parker by constructing new songs from Parker composition or solo fragments,


Eddie Henderson, Collective Portrait (Smoke Sessions) – Trumpeter and flugelhorn player revisits some of his songs in a great acoustic setting.

Kamasi Washington, The Epic: Volumes 1, 2 & 3 (Brainfeeder, 3 CDs) – The most talked about jazz album of the year: tenor saxophonist Washington showcases his large L.A.-based collective, with choir and vocals.


Jeremy Udden & Nicolas Moreaux, The Belleville Project (Sunnyside Records) – The most “cinematic” CD of the year—saxes, banjo, pump organ, bass, drums with melodic colors and combinations. 


Charles Lloyd, Wild Man Dance (Blue Note Records) – Master tenor man with a new quartet plus the Greek lyra (bowed lute) and Hungarian cimbalom (hammer dulcimer)


Bad Plus Joshua Redman (Nonesuch) – The piano trio Bad Plus join forces with tenor saxophonist Joshua Redman on original tunes. He fits right in, whether ballads or tricky time-signature grooves.


Arturo O’Farrill and the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra, Cuba: The Conversation Continues (Motema Records, 2 CDs) – Recorded in Havana with jazz mixed with Afro-Cuban dance, folkloric, and ritual music. Special guest soloist: Rudresh Mahanthappa.


Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis, Live in Cuba (Blue Engine Records, 2 CDs) – Great big band music recorded live mixes some Ellington numbers with Afro-Cuban inspired originals


Anat Cohen, Luminosa (Anzic Records) – The clarinetist’s mix of classic jazz and Brazilian choro


Cuba: The Conversation Continues (CD) ~ Arturo O'Farrill & t... Cover Art What's New? Reimagining Benny Goodman (CD) ~ Oran Etkin Cover Art Search for Peace (CD) ~ Heads of State Cover Art

Oran Etkin, What’s New: Reimagining Benny Goodman (Motema) – Clarinetist (also playing bass clarinet and tenor sax) Oran Etkin focuses on Goodman’s Trio and Quartet.


JD Allen, Graffiti (Savant) – A powerful tenor sax trio.


Echoes of Swing, Dancing (ACT Music) – The quartet (trumpet, alto sax, piano and drums) ingeniously programmed mix of jazz, ragtime, swing standards—all with dancing as a theme.


Dave Douglas, High Risk (Greenleaf Music) – Trumpeter Dave Douglas teams up with some young players influenced by groove-based electronica


Henry Threadgill & Zooid, In for a Penny, In for a Pound (Pi Recordings, 2 CDs) – Threadgill’s flute, bass flute, and alto snaking over drums; cello; trombone/tuba; and guitar.


Heads of State, Search for Peace (Smoke Sessions Records) – Four leaders—Gary Bartz, alto sax, Larry Willis, piano, Buster Williams, bass, Al Foster, drums—collaborate in a swinging, all-star group.



1865 - Songs of Hope and Home from the American Civil War (CD) ~... Cover Art 1865 - Songs of Hope and Home from the American Civil War (CD) ~... Cover Art

Schubert: Piano Works (ECM Records, 2 CDs) – Pianist András Schiff brings new colors, dynamics and insights to Schubert, playing an 1820 fortepiano from Schubert’s era.


Anonymous 4 & Bruce Molsky, 1865: Songs of Hope and Home from the American Civil War (Harmonia Mundi) – The a capella quartet (joined by Molsky on fiddle, banjo, and guitar) in songs sung in churches, in parlors, on stages, and on the battlefields.


Rothko Chapel - Morton Feldman / Erik Satie / John Cage (CD) ~ K... Cover Art Rothko Chapel - Morton Feldman / Erik Satie / John Cage (CD) ~ K... Cover Art

Kim Kashkashian, Sarah Rothenberg, et al, Rothko Chapel: Feldman Satie Cage (ECM Records) – Morton Feldman’s, plus Eric Satie’s Gnossiennes and John Cage’s choral  Inner Landscape


Verdi: Aïda (Warner Classics, 3 CDs) – A powerful cast featuring Anja Harteros as Aïda and Jonas Kaufmann as Radmès, with the Chorus and Orchestra of the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, with Antonio Pappano conducting.


Fugue State - Alan Feinberg (CD) ~ Alan Feinberg Cover Art Wartime Consolations (CD) ~ Linus Roth Cover Art

Alan Feinberg, Fugue State (Steinway & Co) – Feinberg, playing on a modern piano, explores the fugue juxtaposing  Froberger, BuxtehudeAlessandro and Domenico Scarlatti, and above all,  Bach and Handel.


Linus Roth, Wartime Consolations: Hartmann Weinberg Shostakovich (Challenge Classics) – German violinist plays  Karl Amadeus Hartmann,  Mieczyslaw Weinberg, and Shostakovich.


Yuja Wang, Ravel & Fauré (DG) – Ms. Wang plays Ravel’s Piano Conceto in G Major and his Piano Concerto for the Left Hand in D major, with the Tonhalle-Orchester Zürich


Grigory Sokolov, The Salzburg Recital (DG, 2 CDs) – The pianist’s recital includes Chopin, Mozart, plus six encores by Scriabin, Chopin, Rameau, and Bach.


Bedrich Smetana: String Quartets Nos. 1 & 2 (CD) ~ Pavel Haa... Cover Art 

SMETANA: String Quartets Nos. 1 & 2 (Supraphon Records) – Pavel Haas String Quartet

Emerson String Quartet and Renée Fleming, Berg Wellesz Seisl (Decca) — Soprano Renée Fleming joins the Emersons in Viennese music from the 1920s and 1930s.

Haydn: Seven Last Words of Christ (Azica) – The Attaca String Quartet in their own arrangement


Arvo Pärt: Musica Selecta (ECM Records, 2 CDs) – This is a 2-CD compilation, put together by ECM chief Manfred Eicher, to celebrate Arvo Pärt’s 80th birthday year.

Also: Tallis Scholars, Tintinnabuli: Arvo Pärt (Gimell) – The chamber choral group turn from the Renaissance and Baroque to contemporary sacred music.


Giya Kancheli: Chiaroscuro (ECM Records) -- Violinists Patricia  Kopatchinskaja and Gidon Kremer and his Kremerata Baltica role, which brings together two major works.


Schumann: Violin Concerto & Piano Trio No. 3 (Harmonia Mundi) –  Featuring violinist Isabelle Faust, pianist Alexander Melnikov, and cellist Jean-Guihen Queyras, and the Freiburger  Barockorchester.

Also: Schumann: Piano Concerto & Piano Trio No. 2 (Harmonia Mundi) – Volume 2 of a wonderful “period instrument” Schumann Concerto and Trio project by the personnel above.


Alsexander Melnikov, et al., Hindemith: Sonatas for… (Harmonia Mundi) – Melnikov duets with violin, cello, trumpet, trombone, and althorn, in some of the Hindemith sonatas.


Steven Isserlis and Richard Egarr, Gamba Sonatas: Bach Scarlatti Handel (Hyperion) – Cellist Steven Isserlis and harpsichordist Richard Egarr, originally written for viola da gamba.


Marc-André Hamelin and the Pacifica Quartet, Ornstein: Piano Quintet & String Quartet No. 2 (Hyperion) – Bringing overdue recognition to Leo Ornstein with two important compositions from the 1920s.


Mozart: Piano Sonatas (Hyperion, 2 CDs) has already been receiving rave reviews; there are wonderful renditions of eight Sonatas, as well as two Rondos, a Fantasia, and a Gigue. And on


Grieg: Lyric Pieces (Hyperion) –Pianist Stephen Hough chose 27 of these memorable miniatures.


Riley: Sunrise of the Planetary Dream Collector (Nonesuch) -- Kronos Quartet’s work with composer Terry Riley, with both new and old songs.There’s also a box set with 5 CDs of earlier collaborations.


Steel Hammer (Cantaloupe Music) – Julia Wolfe won the Pulitzer Prize for Music this spring for her work for chorus and the “electrified” sextet of instruments.


Anthony de Mare, Liaisons: Re-Imagining Sondheim From the Piano (ECM Records, 3 CDs) – Thirty composers to adapt, arrange, and “re-compose” Stephen Sondheim songs. 


Jonas Kaufmann, Nessun Dorma: The Puccini Album (Sony Classical, $16.98) – “Tremendous tenor arias” from Puccini, with the Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale  di Santa Cecilia, conducted by Antonio Pappano


Bach: Violin Concertos (Hyperion) – Alina Ibragimova plays Bach, accompanied by Arcangelo, directed by Jonathan Cohen and also Ysaÿe: Sonatas for Solo Violin (Hyperion)


BACH: Cello Suites (Resonus Records, 2 CDs) – David Watkin, cello

BACH: English Suites Nos. 1, 3 & 5 (Warner Classics) – Piotr Anderszewski, piano

Bach: Mass in B Minor (Soli Deo Gloria, 2 CDs) – John Eliot Gardiner’s new recording, conducting his Monteverdi Choir and English Baroque Soloists.



Don't Think I've Forgotten: Cambodia's Lost (CD) ~ Various Artists Cover Art Pat Thomas & Kwashibu Area Band (CD) ~ Pat Thomas & Kwas... Cover Art

Don’t Think I’ve Forgotten: Cambodia’s Lost Rock ‘n’ Roll (Dust to Digital Records) is the soundtrack to a new documentary about a short-lived golden age of Cambodian pop music, suddenly wiped out during the murderous reign of the Khmer Rouge.


Banda de los Muertos, Banda de los Muertos (Barbès Records) – Banda—Mexican brass band music played by New York’s finest jazz players


Cuncordu e Tenore d’Orosei, Novarea (Buda Musique) – Traditional Sardinian a capella singing is one of the most powerful, and one of the oldest surviving,  traditions in the world. The five voices of Cuncordu e Tenore d’Orosei sing the two traditional forms: the sacred songs of religious brotherhoods and the secular pastoral songs called “canto a tenore.”


Samuel Torres Group, Forced Displacement (Zoho) – Columbian conga player/ composer Torres wrote a powerful 10-movement Latin jazz suite.


Ibeyi, Ibeyi (XL Records) – Twins Lisa-Kaindé and Naomi Díaz use their Cuban, Venezuelan, and French backgrounds to meld catchy international pop.


Pat Thomas, Pat Thomas and Kwashibu Area Band (Strut) – The sound of Ghanaian highlife returns in an album by the pioneering Pat Thomas.


Mbongwana Star, From Kinshasa (Nonesuch) – Many strains of today’s music from Congo


Lila Downs, Balas y Chocolate (Sony Latin) – Mexican singer Lila Downs uses the Day of the Dead theme to address both the personal and the political in hard-charging songs full of horns, saxophones, and driving accordions.


Dom la Nena, Soyo (Six Degrees) – Dom la Nena is a vocalist, cellist and songwriter, singing in Brazilian, French, and English. full of quiet, sweet melodies, with subtle, graceful rhythms.


Vinicius Cantuaria, Vincius Canta Antonio Carlos Jobim (Sunnyside) – Brazilian singer, songwriter and guitarist Vinicius Cantuaria picks gems from the Jobim catalog.



Fun Home (A New Broadway Musical) (CD) ~ Jeanine Tesori Cover Art

Fun Home: Broadway Cast Recording (PS Classics) – The musical based on Alison Bechdell’s memoir has made the leap to Broadway—and won the Tony this year for Best Musical. Lisa Kron wrote the book and lyrics, and Jeanine Tesori wrote the music. Michael Cerveris and Judy Kuhn play the parents, and Alison is played (at three different ages) by Sydney Lucas, Emily Skeggs, and Beth Malone.