Alison Sudol is in disguise. In fact, she's in the disguise: the classic horn-rimmed glasses, fake nose, and mustache mask. Tonight she's just enjoying Halloween in her hometown of Seattle, but for Sudol, the 22-year-old pianist and singer/songwriter behind A Fine Frenzy, taking on a new identity--in her case, a clever band name drawn from Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream--allows her the freedom to pursue her melodic brand of confessional songwriting, with just enough of a buffer zone to keep her true self intact.

One of Britain's most promising--and successful--young artists, Katie Melua bucks the trend toward prefab pop chanteuses. A native of the former Soviet country of Georgia, she charts an unlikely path through the kind of jazzy folk-pop terrain once trekked by iconoclasts like Nina Simone and Joni Mitchell.

He's British by birth, yet Albert Lee is one of the finest guitarists to master those quintessentially American genres, country and rockabilly. Since attaining fame in the '70s as Emmylou Harris's instrumental foil, he's played with Eric Clapton, Dolly Parton, Joe Cocker, Jackson Browne, George Jones, Linda Ronstadt, Jerry Lee Lewis, Travis Tritt, and many other leading rock and country artists. We spoke to him during a rare break in his overbooked schedule.

Over the last decade Staind has established itself as one of hard rock's most successful bands. Relentless touring and full-throttle performances have earned the Massachusetts quartet a fanatical live following, while tuneful, slickly produced songs such as "Been a While" and "Outside" have become huge radio-fueled hits.

To hear Nicole Witt tell it, her musical career was determined before she was born.

Grandmaster Flash may be the most important figure in hip-hop history. In the late '70s, his radical turntable techniques laid the style's sonic foundations. He was one of the first DJs to collaborate with rappers. His smash singles "The Message" and "White Lines" helped establish hip-hop as a vehicle for social commentary. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame recently honored Flash's achievements, naming him one of five 2007 inductees.

Brandi Carlile is far from your typical young singer-songwriter. Her rich, expressive voice and nuanced lyrics infuse her music with the kind of timelessness that most 26-year-olds might not even attempt. Since her 2005 self-titled debut, Carlile has toured with such artists as the Indigo Girls, Tori Amos, and Shawn Colvin in addition to headlining several tours of her own. Her songs have been showcased on Grey's Anatomy and other popular television shows, and Rolling Stone named her an "Artist to Watch."

"It's nice and quiet here," says guitarist David Catching of his home studio, located in the remote California desert town of Joshua Tree. "My place is funky. Technically, it doesn't compare to most great studios, but it's a fantastic place to write. Bands come out here, and I record them, cook food, play a little guitar here and there." He chuckles. "It works out for everyone."

"God just keeps showing up!" enthuses Leeland keyboardist Jack Mooring when asked about the exuberance and excitement of his band's live shows. Leeland has recently been opening for Christian heavyweights Casting Crowns at massive venues like the Toyota Center in their native Houston.

In the early '70s, a new generation of acoustic-oriented artists changed the face of popular music. But Crosby, Stills & Nash, Joni Mitchell, Carole King, Jackson Browne, and James Taylor shared more than superb songwriting skills: They all relied on drummer Russ Kunkel.

"This is a great gig," raves keyboardist Ricky Gonzalez about his current stint with Marc Anthony and Jennifer Lopez. "I get to play six or seven genres in one night--and do it convincingly."

For a guy 40 years into his career, Glenn Hughes makes startlingly modern-sounding music. His solo albums--including last year's Music for the Divine--feature fiery funk rock that would delight Red Hot Chili Peppers fans. It certainly delights the Red Hot Chili Peppers--their drummer, Chad Smith, and guitarist, John Frusciante, are regular Hughes collaborators.

"Music is about feeling," says keyboardist and producer Larry Cox. "It's about evoking emotion. If I'm not making you bob your head to what you hear, if I'm not making you feel what I do, then it's not music--it's just notes."

Dennis DeYoung is best known as the former frontman and principal hitmaker for 1970s and '80s arena-rockers Styx, the first band ever to score four consecutive multi-platinum records. DeYoung and his former bandmates have long since parted ways, but Dennis's dramatic vocals and distinctive keyboard playing remain much in demand.

Engineer/mixer Eliud "Lou" Ortiz has worked with Shaggy, Christina Aguilera, Yolanda Adams, Luther Vandross, Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes, Roni Size, DJ Krush, and many others. So between R&B, rock, reggae, pop, hip-hop, electronic, and gospel, what's Lou's favorite genre to record and mix?