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An ongoing and updated listing of album reviews by Arkansas Democrat-Gazette writers, with ratings.

Brad Paisley, American Saturday Night, Arista Nashville, B

Brad Paisley is a likable pop country singer/guitarist with rockist tendencies who delivers reliable truck commercial anthems and mainstream Nashville ballads. But the real surprise is the smoking blues tune "Oh Yeah, You're Gone," where he trades stinging Stratocaster riffs with blues-jazz virtuoso Robben Ford. DOWNLOAD THIS: "Oh Yeah, You're Gone," "Anything Like Me" and "Welcome to t he Future." (PHILIP MARTIN)

Various artists, Disney Pixar Greatest, Walt Disney Records, B+

This roundup collects 14 years of music from Pixar Animation Studio's cartoon features, everything from Toy Story to Up. This CD of movie music brings back many happy scenes from features including Wall-E, Cars and Finding Nemo - a generous 25 tracks. DOWNLOAD THIS: Sarah McLachlan's bittersweet "When She Loved Me" from Toy Story 2, Randy Newman's "You've Got a Friend in Me" from Toy Story and Newman's "If I Didn't Have You" from Monsters, Inc. (RON WOLFE)

Rob Thomas, Cradlesong, Atlantic, B-

Rob Thomas, solo artist and leader of Matchbox Twenty, creates pop music with an adult perspective on love and social concerns, just as Phil Collins did when his music dominated the pop charts in the 1980s and early 1990s. Cradlesong is polished to a high-gloss sheen. DOWNLOAD THIS: "Her Diamonds," which soars on the rhythms of African drums, and the title song with its world music touches. (ELLIS WIDNER)

Oneida, Rated O, Jagjaguwar/Brah, B

Prolific Brooklyn-based trance rockers Oneida's second installment in their announced Thank the Parents triptych is a sprawling triple CD set (since there's only about two hours of music, the three CDs are a conceit, not a necessity). It's daunting and exhilarating and not completely unlike a sleep-deprived, pre-dawn ride on a rattling Berlin U-Bahn train where competing skinhead gangs engage in a switchblade rumble cum dance-off as opposing boomboxes simultaneously blare Kraftwerk and Lou Reed's Metal Machine Music in your face. And that's the pretty parts. (PHILIP MARTIN)

Kronos Quartet, Floodplain, Nonesuch, A-

The Kronos Quartet's latest taps Asian and African flood-plain cultures. The album reflects social/political realities with emotional music of bittersweet longing, sadness, pain, strife and weariness. It can be tough going, but Kronos and its collaborators keep a soulful spirit aloft in this remarkable musical and cultural fusion. DOWNLOAD THIS: the tango-ish, romantic 1940 Arab song, "Ya Habibi Ta'ala (My Love, Come Quickly)"; the remarkable " ... hold me, neighbor, in this storm ... ," which embraces the complexities of the former Yugoslavia with its Serbian folk instruments, church bells of Serbian Orthodox monasteries, Muslim calls to prayer and more. (ELLIS WIDNER)

Ginuwine, A Man's Thoughts, Notifi, A

Ginuwine has evolved from seductive bachelor to a mature husband and father who is paying more attention to the love aspect of relationships. DOWNLOAD THIS: the beautiful ballad "One Time for Love," the midtempo "Show Off." Guests include Brandy, Bun B and RL. (SHON MCPEACE)

Todd Snider, The Excitement Plan, Yep Roc, A

Is this the album that wakes America up to Todd Snider? I doubt it, although to some of my friends, Snider is already considered something of a superstar, a barefoot folkie with a goofy grin, an acoustic guitar and the sharpest eye for social commentary this side of Randy Newman and John Prine. The Excitement Plan is by turns funny, poignant and, above all, marked by a kind of ferocious honesty. DOWNLOAD THIS: his duet with Loretta Lynn, "Don't Tempt Me," "America's Favorite Pastime," "Greencastle Blues." (PHILIP MARTIN)

Tiny Masters of Today, Skeletons, Mute, C

So this would be the opposite of the Jonas Brothers' slick, teeny-bopper pop - fuzzy, bratty, dance-influenced punk made by a pair of teen siblings whose parents must have had a pretty cool record collection. There are elements of early PiL, electronica, hip-hop and sneering alt-rock, but the the vocals sound like they were recorded through a cell phone at the bottom of a barrel. DOWNLOAD THIS: "Pop Chart," which lifts the riff from Cornershop's "Brimful of Asha" and the snotty, mercilessly infectious "Big Stick." (SEAN CLANCY)

John Mellencamp, Life, Death, LIVE and Freedom, Hear Music, A

Backed by a crack band, the former Johnny Cougar rips through (and generally improves the vocal performance of) eight of the tracks from his excellent folk-rock album from last year Life, Death, Love and Freedom. These no-frill live versions of Mellencamp-penned songs have no overdubs or studio enhancements, and they reveal an angry singer in magnificent voice. (PHILIP MARTIN)

Oak Ridge Boys, The Boys Are Back, Spring Hill, A-

The Oaks' latest has an edge you wouldn't expect ... a good edge, thanks to a boost from Shooter Jennings, Jamey Johnson and others. DOWNLOAD THIS: Neil Young's "Beautiful Bluebird," the White Stripes' "Seven Nation Army," Johnson's "Mama's Table" and "God's Gonna Ease My Troublin' Mind." (MATT SPENCE)

Basia, It's That Girl Again, Koch Records, B

Basia, the Polish singer who gave us the lovely hit "New Day for You," returns after a 15-year absence with her Latin-soul-1960s-jazz sound. Ambitious musical arrangements combined with Basia's chirpy-sultry voice make this CD a keeper. DOWNLOAD THIS: the haunting "It's That Girl Again," the danceable "If Not Now Then When," and the soulful "Everybody's on the Move." (HELAINE R. WILLIAMS

Jeff Buckley, Grace Around the World, Legacy, B

Jeff Buckley, son of '60s folk singer Tim Buckley, released just one complete studio album (Grace) before his death from drowning 12 years ago. This Grace is a collection of live recordings, mostly from TV appearances in America and Europe, that serious fans will want. The CD has 12 of the 14 songs on the DVD; the DVD also has a music video of "Hallelujah." The deluxe edition ($34.98) has a bonus DVD of the film Amazing Grace: Jeff Buckley, a nicely done, music-focused documentary. ( ELLIS WIDNER)

Wilco, Wilco (The Album), Nonesuch, B-

The new Wilco is amiable and cool, more Radiohead than Faces, with only Jeff Tweedy's twang to remind us we're listening to an "important" band. That doesn't mean there aren't a lot of good ideas on display, it's just that even the relaxed jokiness of "Wilco (The Song)" sounds slightly strained, as those the guys were really desperate to let us know they don't take themselves all that seriously. Nels Cline is a great guitarist, Glen Kotche nails the beat, and we're left with the impression that these guys could do anything, if they only wanted. So Jeff wants to sing with Feist? Really? (PHILIP MARTIN)

Lily Storm, If I Had a Dream to the Dawn, Songbat, A

American singer Lily Storm's keening, haunting voice and this spare, spacious music give these eastern European folk songs a striking, aching beauty that is ancient, yet undeniably modern. These songs - a fragment of a Ukrainian lullaby, laments from Russia and Bulgaria, a tender ode to the sun from the Czech Republic and a lively song from Romania - make this a Dream come true. (ELLIS WIDNER)

Swing Out Sister, Beautiful Mess, Shanachie, B

The music of British duo Corinne Drewery and Andy Connell has been described as an organic dance/jazz/urban pop combination, 1960s Burt Bacharach-like lounge music, and, by Drewery herself, as "escapist ... summer music." DOWNLOAD THIS: "Out There," "Butterfly Lullaby." (HELAINE R. WILLIAMS)

Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver, Lonely Street, Rounder, A

Few things are more genuine than the raw emotions elicited by good bluegrass music. Legendary musician Doyle Lawson and his fine band Quicksilver continue the legacy of Bill Monroe, one of bluegrass's founding fathers, on this magical album. DOWNLOAD THIS: "Big Wind," a Porter Wagoner song, the melancholy "My Real World of Make Believe" and the heartfelt "The Human Race." (SHON MCPEACE)

Elephant Micah, Exiled Magicians, Third Uncle, B+

There's a kind of hush, a haunting intimacy that underpins the songs of Joe O'Connell, who records as Elephant Micah. O'Connell's voice aches and throbs with feeling. It's a spacious Americana/rootsy sound that is retro and futuristic. DOWNLOAD THIS: the tender, bittersweet "Imperial Blues," plus "Exotic Criminals," "New Nature" and "Palms Proceeding." Available at for $12, which includes shipping. (ELLIS WIDNER)

Jonas Brothers, Lines, Vines and Trying Times, Hollywood, C-

The real debate here is whether fourth-quarter profits or desperation drives this immaculately neutralized pop document. It's not terrible - if by "not terrible" you mean the instruments and vocals are in (auto?) tune - but neither is it terribly convincing. DOWNLOAD THIS: "Black Keys," (Philip Martin)

Bettye LaVette, Change Is Gonna Come, Anti- A-

On this six-song EP, an iTunes exclusive, LaVette revists the Sam Cooke title song that she sang with Jon Bon Jovi at an Inaugural Concert at the Lincoln Memorial. LaVette reminds us of Otis Redding's intense pleading and of Tina Turner and Patti LaBelle's firepower. But it is LaVette's soul-deep emotion and transcendent delivery that sets her apart. DOWNLOAD THIS: "A Change Is Gonna Come," Billy Strayhorn's "Lush Life." (ELLIS WIDNER)

Holly Williams, Here With Me, Mercury Nashville, B

As interesting as Holly Williams' pedigree may be - her father's Hank Jr. which makes her granddaddy an immortal - it's hardly the story on her second album, which is by and large smarter-than-average alt-country. DOWNLOAD THIS: the Rosanne Cash-like crusher "Three Days in Bed," Neil Young's "Birds" and "Mama." (PHILIP MARTIN)

Black Eyed Peas, The E.N.D. (Energy Never Dies), Interscope/Universal, B-

The Peas' fifth studio album, the third since the arrival of Fergie, is more electronic hyperkinetic dance music. However, this album begins to drone on about midway. Those pounding drums can very quickly become a pounding headache. There's very little else here, which is fine if you party all the time. DOWNLOAD THIS: the vigorous "I'm Missing You," the lead single, "Boom, Boom, Pow" is a nonstop energy-draining rush. (SHON MCPEACE)

Crosby, Stills & Nash, Demos, Rhino, B

There's nothing revelatory in this collection of (mostly) solo sketches by David Crosby, Stephen Stills and Graham Nash, but a certain kind of boomer enthusiast will be happy to receive it nevertheless. DOWNLOAD THIS: "Long Time Gone," "Chicago," "Music Is Love." (PHILIP MARTIN)

Mos Def, The Ecstatic, Downtown, B+

Mos Def is one of the most consistent and consistently overlooked performers in music and the movies. His laid-back approach and ability to make things appear easy often disguises his immense skill. On his fourth album, Def displays a rejuvenated focus. DOWNLOAD THIS: "History," with Black Star rhyme partner Talib Kweli; "Auditorium" with Slick Rick and "Twilite Speedball," with its ominous-sounding horns. (SHON MCPEACE)

Ramblin' Jack Elliott, A Stranger Here, Anti-, A

Veteran 77-year-old folk singer who influenced Bob Dylan, the Grateful Dead and others, sings Depression-era blues songs by Blind Willie Johnson, Mississippi John Hurt, Son House and others that resonate in today's economic/social realities. Producer Joe Henry gives the album a modern, moody atmosphere. Elliott's world-wise, weary and sometimes frayed voice delivers the goods. Ranks with latter-day Johnny Cash. DOWNLOAD THIS: Blind Lemon Jefferson's "Rising High Water Blues," Johnson's "Soul of a Man" and the Rev. Gary Davis' "Death Don't Have No Mercy." (ELLIS WIDNER)

David Serby, Honkytonk and Vine, Harbor Grove, B+

This Southern California singer/songwriter is inspired by honky-tonk, Austin, Bakersfield, soul and more is an expressive singer whose voice rings with conviction; Dwight Yoakam fans will enjoy this. Serby wrote all 13 songs and it beats most everything coming out of Nashville, Tenn., by a country mile. DOWNLOAD THIS: the rockin' "Get It in Gear," the honky-tonk blues of the Haggard-esque "I Only Smoke When I'm Drinkin'" and the clever "The Heartache's on the Other Sleeve." (ELLIS WIDNER)

Eilen Jewell, Sea of Tears, Signature Sounds, A-

A rootsy singer with retro feel for country and early rock, Eilen Jewell's voice shows a Loretta Lynn influence; maybe with hints of Skeeter Davis and Norah Jones. Jewell has a low-key, emotion-charged delivery that traverses country, jazz and rock with ease. DOWNLOAD THIS: Her covers of Lynn's "The Darkest Day" and Johnny Kidd's "Shakin' All Over" and her originals "One of Those Days," "Nowhere in No Time" and "Rain Roll In." (ELLIS WIDNER)

Diana Jones, Better Times Will Come, Proper American, B+

This singer-songwriter evokes the dusty, deep roads of rural America and its folk/country music. Guests include Mary Gauthier, Nanci Griffith and Betty Elders. Jones writes songs inspired by the struggles and joys of life and living, with a keen ear for melody. DOWNLOAD THIS: "If I Had a Gun," "All God's Children" and the title track. (ELLIS WIDNER)

Peter Holsapple and Chris Stamey, Here and Now, Bar None, B+

The chief songwriters of the pop band the dB's offer pure pop pleasure with strong vocals, wonderful harmonies and catchy melodies. DOWNLOAD THIS: a Beatles-esqe cover of "My Friend the Sun," the romantic "Broken Record" and "Here and Now." (ELLIS WIDNER)

Sarah Wasserman, Solid Ground, TOL, B

The daughter of famed bassist Rob Wasserman, Sarah is a bluesy pop singer/songwriter with lots of promise. Guests include Lou Reed, Vernon Reid, Christian McBride, Aaron Neville. DOWNLOAD THIS: "Little Bird," "Sara Smile" and "Fly Away." (ELLIS WIDNER)

Justin Adams and Juldeh Camara, Tell No Lies, Real World, A

Justin Adams plays guitar in Robert Plant's band and works with Tuareg musicians of the Sahara. Juldeh Camara is a griot (storyteller) from Gambia, who plays the riti - a one-string spike fiddle that has a stunningly rich, full sound. They make music that makes it oh-so-clear how much West African music is part of the foundation of American blues and, by extension, rock 'n' roll. This exhilarating collaboration is otherworldly, soulful and rooted in the mystery and reality of life. We hear the interplay of the haunting beauty of griot ballads, blues that recall Muddy Waters and Lead Belly, bracing guitar rock (think early The Who and The Clash) and hints of Celtic, R&B and hip-hop. Download this: the down-and-dirty blues of "Fulani Coochie Man," or see their video of "Kele Kele." (ELLIS WIDNER)

Tracy Lawrence, The Rock, Rocky Comfort Records, C

The Rock is mostly "inspirational country," but the best track, "Jesus Come Talk to Your Children" (co-written by Lawrence), can be classified as country gospel. There's not a lot of substance, but there are a few worthwhile tracks. Download this: "Jesus Come Talk to Your Children" and " Dear Lord." (MATT SPENCE)

Elvis Costello, Secret, Profane and Sugarcane, Hear Music, B+

Warm, organic and purposefully summerweight, Elvis Costello's latest is a drumless and jazzy folk country album. For the most part, it's the music that moves the needle here, with a band of Nashville professionals - guests include Jim Lauderdale, Jerry Douglas and Emmylou Harris - lending authenticity to Costello's plaintive (and playful) vocals. Download this: Loretta Lynn's creepy weeper "I Felt the Chill." (Philip Martin)

Tim Easton, Porcupine, New West, A-

Easton's intoxicating voice and guitar seem to tap into a reservoir of great music, a timeless sphere of veteran bluesmen (Folk Singer-era Muddy Waters, Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee), midcareer Bruce Springsteen, "Jack and Diane"-era John Mellencamp and '60s electrified Bob Dylan. But Easton gives it a singular spin via very clever, well-written songs sung with a passionate, prowling voice that speaks of a palpable hunger, with hints of world-weariness and sprinkled with heart-deep wisdom, some snark and laugh-out-loud humor. This folk-rocker's album is an invigorating 38 minutes; 12 tunes that feel old and new at the same time. Neat trick, that. Download this: "Broke My Heart," "Porcupine," "Stormy." (ELLIS WIDNER)

Polly Scattergood, Polly Scattergood, Mute, B

England's Polly Scattergood is of the no-holds-barred, soul-baring school of songwriting ... some of which can make one wince. There are songs about suicidal tendencies, "sadness in the air" and confusion, all adorned with slight beats and melodies that perfectly fit her pixie voice. Amid all of that gloom is a certain resolve, a definite strength. Download this: "I Hate the Way," the recounting of a twisted relationship that has left the singer emotionally shredded. (Sean Clancy)

Busta Rhymes, B.O.M.B.S. (Back on My B.S.), Flipmode/Motown, A

The incomparable Busta Rhymes is a nearly 20-year veteran who has produced influential videos, unmatched live shows and hit after hit after hit. His eighth solo album is more of what fans love: raw, energetic tracks; unmistakable, underrated lyrical skills; and banging beats. Download this: "Respect My Conglomerate" with Lil Wayne and Jadakiss, "Hustler's Anthem '09" with T-Pain and "Decision," with Common, John Legend, Jamie Foxx and Mary J. Blige. Rhymes is not only relevant, but vital. (SHON McPEACE)

Vanessa Williams, The Real Thing, Concord Records, A

With a team of producers that includes Kenny "Babyface" Edmonds, the singer-actress beautifully displays her skills as a jazz singer on her 13th album. A look at relationships from the woman's perspective, The Real Thing is soft, sensuous and pretty ... a perfect audio getaway and daydream-stirrer in these trying times. Download this: "Breathless," is "Hello Like Before" and Babyface's "Loving You." (HELAINE R. WILLIAMS)

Iggy Pop, Preliminaires, Astralwerks, B-

Maybe the last thing you expect from the 62-year-old Iggy Pop is an ambient electro glide in blue classical album with New Orleans jazz flourishes and an unironic cover of the 1945 standard "Les feuilles mortes (Autumn Leaves)" sung in French? Iggy brings the same level of commitment to this material as he did to The Stooges proto-punk. Which means he means it, even when he's crooning like Tom Waits on quaaludes. Download this: "King of the Dogs" or "Nice to Be Dead." (PHILIP MARTIN)

Redman and Method Man, Blackout 2, Def Jam, A

Deuces are wild throughout the long-awaited follow-up to Redman and Method Man's 1999 Blackout album. The fun-loving tandem calls upon Pete Rock, half of the 1990s hit-making team of Rock and CL Smooth, for the hard-thumping "A Yo," a song that has an "official Summer Jam" feel to it. UGK, another of rap's history-making teams, joins the fun on the unprecedented "City Lights." (SHON MCPEACE)

Ruben Studdard, Love Is, Hickory Records, B

As far as former American Idol "sing-testants" go, we don't hear much about second-season winner Ruben Studdard. He's not the kind who comes out on the cover of People or makes Forbes' list of top 10 Idol earners. It doesn't mean he hasn't been busy. The nice guy is still making nice-guy R&B music, as evidenced on Love Is, produced by Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis. Download this: "How You Make Me Feel" and "Song for Her." (JENNIFER CHRISTMAN)

Michelle Shocked, Soul of My Soul, Mighty Sound, B

Occupying a territory somewhere between Mimi Farina and k.d. lang, Shocked is the angry young protest singer with the bel canto voice and sometimes enervating eclecticism. She retains the power to surprise and even amaze, although she's usually better when she just shuts up and sings. Which is what she does on the straightforward and sincere Soul of My Soul, a mash note in four-four time to her latest love (artist David Willardson, whose portrait of Shocked graces the CD jacket). Download this: "Pompeii." Uneven, but the good parts are what stay with you. (PHILIP MARTIN)

Paul Potts, Passione, Sony, B

Before Susan Boyle wowed Britain's Got Talent, Simon Cowell and YouTube, there was Paul Potts. The former Brit cell-phone salesman won 2007's season with a thrilling performance of the aria "Nessun Dorma" from Puccini's Turandot. He had a successful debut album and now comes Passione, on which Potts sings schmaltzy pop songs in Italian. His sincere tenor will please fans of Andrea Bocelli. Download this: "La Prima Volta" ("The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face"). (ELLIS WIDNER)

Black Moth Superrainbow, Eating Us, Graveface, B-

That name. Sounds like some stoner hippie band you'd expect to see up at Wakarusa, jamming out to Dead covers and picking dirt out of their dreadlocks. But Black Moth Superrainbow is a spacey amalgamation and Eating Us is a smooth, trippy journey to the other end of the rainbow. Think of a less noisy MGMT and you are getting close to BMSR. (SEAN CLANCY)


Eminem, Relapse, Interscope, A-

As the pop world turns, Master Marshall's a geezer now, with his last release five years in the past. But Relapse is a chilling cycle of self-loathing and disgust in which the little guy - collaborating once again with the sensationally funky Dr. Dre - wrestles naked with his demons in public, while giving voice to some terrifying Slim Shady fantasies. There's lots of tasteless gay- and celebrity-bashing that feels tired, but the meat of the album is a brutal self-critique that feels authentic and earned. Eminem has made a career of spitting couplets so outlandish we all assumed he was kidding; he's more shocking now that he's telling the truth. (Philip Martin)

Chrisette Michele, Epiphany, Island/Def Jam, A

Hers is the beautiful voice alongside some of hip-hop's biggest names - The Game's "Let Us Live," Jay-Z's soulful "Lost One," Nas' "Can't Forget About You," "Still Dreaming" and "Hope," and Ghostface Killah's "Slow Down." Epiphany is a jazzy, soulful trek through the ups and downs of love. Download this: "Notebook."(SHON MCPEACE)

Frank Sinatra, Live at the Meadowlands, Concord, B

Frank Sinatra was in his full Chairman of the Board persona when he held court at the Meadowlands in his home state of New Jersey on March 14, 1986. Then 70, Sinatra's voice was deteriorating, but that doesn't mean there's not depth, drama and passion. Download this: the hard-hitting "Mack the Knife," the dreamy "Moonlight in Vermont" and the classic saloon song, "One for My Baby." (ELLIS WIDNER)

The Revelations featuring Tre Williams, Deep Soul, Decision, A-

The multiracial, Brooklyn-based sextet offers a small (seven-track) but power-packed serving of bluesy, edgy, retro-tinged soul. Download this: the don't-gossip-to-me-about-my-baby cut "I Don't Want to Know." (Helaine R. Williams)

Paul Wall, Fastlife, Swishahouse/Asylum, B-

Paul Wall's fourth solo album has plush beats, bluesy guitar riffs and Wall's Southern drawl crawl of a flow. An exceptional wordsmith, Wall delivers trunk-rattling cuts blanketed with fly ride rhymes, candy paint and blinging jewels. Download this: "Mama Raised Me." (SHON McPEACE)

Green Day, 21st Century Breakdown, Reprise, B

Green Day's American Idiot was a spittle-flecked life-during-wartime indignation, charging guitars and Billie Joe Armstrong's overdriven vocals. On the 2004 album, Green Day's aspiration exceeded its reach - it wasn't the Joe Strummer/Pete Townshend punk rock opera the band seemed to be striving for, but it was something fresh and honest. Breakdown is another punk rock opera, with another somewhat muddled narrative. But it's rarely boring and mostly pretty listenable. Download this: the incendiary "Know Your Enemy" and the "American Idiot" rewrite "Horseshoes and Handgrenades." (PHILIP MARTIN)

Cam'ron, Crime Pays, Diplomat/Asylum, C+

Back from a hiatus that saw him face his mother's health complications, beefs with Jay-Z and 50 Cent, strife within his crew (Jim Jones, Juelz Santana) and being shot, Cam'ron returns with the same sharp off-beat/on-beat cadence and clever wordplay that made him a contender to New York's hip-hop throne in the late 1990's and early 2000's.

But three years is a long time to be away, and the rust is apparent. He's going to have to step his game up to regain the standing he once held. Download this: "My Job," "Get It In Ohio" and "Cookin Up." (SHON MCPEACE)

Collin Raye, Never Going Back, Time Life, C+

Collin Raye's Never Going Back seems to do just that - go back. In addition to covering a couple of '70s hits, many songs sound like they could have been unreleased Eagles tracks from the early 1980s. (MATT SPENCE)

Jake Shimabukuro, Live, Hitchhike, A-

People usually laugh if one admits liking the ukulele. OK, we get that. But Jake Shimabukuro is no Tiny Tim, he is a virtuoso musician who happens to play ukulele. Live is a great introduction to Shimabukuro's stunning musicianship. Download this: the exquisite version of George Harrison's "While My Guitar Gently Weeps," his striking redo of Michael Jackson's "Thrille." and "Blue Roses Falling." (ELLIS WIDNER)

The Thermals, Now We Can See, Kill Rock Stars, B+

How fun it is to lose yourself in a joyous three-minute pop song, and The Thermals are happy to provide the escape hatch with Now We Can See. Like Fountains of Wayne, Superchunk or The Posies, The Thermals make due with guitar, bass and drums and a grip of crunchy, pogo-happy alt-pop confections. There are doses of reality included here. Under those syrupy sweet melodies are lyrics that can be thoughtful, confused and barbed. It makes for a pleasing combination. Download this: "When I Died," "Now We Can See." (SEAN CLANCY)

Jill Sobule, California Years, Pinko, B+

Jill Sobule financed her new album by asking fans for donations (with goodies for those who did, including being mentioned in "The Donor Song") and raised $85,000 to create California Years. Her intelligent, sometimes satirical, tunes sparkle. Download this: "Palm Springs," "Mexican Pharmacy" and the striking "Where Is Bobbie Gentry," in which she claims to be the baby tossed off the Tallahatchie Bridge in "Ode to Billie Joe." (ELLIS WIDNER)

Gaucho, Deep Night, Porto Franco, B

Gypsy jazz acoustic sextet swings something like Django Reinhardt fronting the Hot Club with a few of the Texas Playboys sitting in. Most of the tunes on this live set are recognizable standards Download this: "Tea for Two," "The Sheik of Araby." (Philip Martin)

Mike Jones, The Voice, Ice Age/Swishahouse/Asylum, C+

Mike Jones returns with more of the same that put him on back in 2005, when his debut Who Is Mike Jones sold 1.5 million copies. Jones spends the majority of The Voice conveying how wonderous the spoils of success can be. While the album is filled with R&B-tinged cuts that sound ready-made for radio or the club, gritty cuts for the streets like "Back Then," and "Still Tippin'" are nowhere to be found. He spends far too much time in the club or trying to impress the ladies on tracks like "Cuddy Buddy" and the squalid "Giv Me a Call." Download this: "Swagger Right" and "Swagg Thru Da Roof." (SHON MCPEACE)

Paul Wall, Fastlife, Swishahouse/Asylum, B-

Paul Wall's fourth solo album has plush beats, bluesy guitar riffs and his unmistakable Southern drawl crawl of a flow. An exceptional wordsmith, Wall delivers trunk-rattling cuts blanketed with fly ride rhymes, candy paint and blinging jewels. Download this: "Mama Raised Me," a heartfelt, divested ode to the most powerful element in the world; a mother's love. (SHON McPEACE)

Hilary Kole, Haunted Heart, Justin Time, A-

Hilary Kole's sophisticated voice is lyrical, precise and rings with clarity, qualities one hears in Diana Krall and Chris Connor. Kole favors a more traditional jazz singer's approach, but she is hardly predictable. Guitarist/producer John Pizzarelli and Kole's trio give the singer solid, expressive support. Download this: "What'll I Do," "Old Boyfriends," "Blackberry Winter." (ELLIS WIDNER)

Melody Gardot, My One and Only Thrill, Verve, A

Melody Gardot's intimate voice has hints of Norah Jones, Astrud Gilberto, Edith Piaf and Peggy Lee. The songs were written mostly by Gardot, two in collaboration with Jesse Harris (who wrote Norah Jones' hit "Don't Know Why"). Gardot's hushed and poignant voice evokes late-night cabarets; her poetic songs lean toward quieter introspections with a tinge of the blues. Download this: "Who Will Comfort Me," the chilling "Your Heart Is as Black as Night," "The Rain." (ELLIS WIDNER)

Jaimee Paul, At Last, Green Hill, B

This tribute to female singers tackles some of the greatest, starting with Etta James' classic title song. Paul gets superb support from pianist Beegie Adair and her trio. The orchestrations are lush and Paul's smoky voice evokes the eras of these songs. Dowload this: "Cry Me a River," "Sentimental Journey," "What a Diff'rence a Day Makes." (ELLIS WIDNER)

Kat Edmonson, Take to the Sky, Convivium, A-

This Austin, Texas-based singer's distinctive voice is clearly indebted to Billie Holiday and, to a lesser degree, Peggy Lee. But Edmonson's original approach to music and the emotion she infuses mark her as a musical sculptor. Eclectic song choices range from classics to modern rock. Download this: a bittersweet "Summertime"; a bossa nova-infused take on the Cardigans' "Lovefool"; a sexy, slowed-down interpretation of The Chiffons' "One Fine Day."(ELLIS WIDNER)

Elliott Yamin, Fight For Love, Hickory Records, C+

Allow us to reintroduce Elliott Yamin, who made the Top 3 in American Idol's fifth season. The R&B singer released a successful self-titled debut in 2007. Similar smooth can't-get-you-off-my-mind melodies saturate his latest, although none comes close to to his breakout emotional anthem "Wait For You." The agreeable first single and title track, blends indistinguishably into 11 of the others (the funky "Cold Heart" is kicky in contrast). (Jennifer Christman)

Various artists, Oh Happy Day All-Star Music Celebration, EMI, B+

Artists from gospel and various secular music genres team up to give new voice to some songs of faith and, for the most part, deliver. Queen Latifah and Jubilation do a decent job on the title cut, but it pales in comparison to the jubilant "I Believe" with Jonny cq Lang and the Fisk (University) Jubilee Singers. The stars of the project? Aaron Neville and the Mount Zion Mass Choir, who'll make you believe "A Change Is Gonna Come." Download this: "I Believe," "A Change Is Gonna Come," "People Get Ready." (Helaine R. Williams)

Better Than Ezra, Paper Empire, Red Distribution, C

If "alternative pop" a musical category, it's firmly occupied by Better Than Ezra. The band's latest has some nice beats and catchy hooks, but it won't steam up the rock charts. As light frothy fare, however, Paper Empire pops. Download this; the peppy "All In." (Rhonda Owen)

Hill Country Revue, Make a Move, Razor & Tie, B

Hill Country Revue may be best understood as a side project of North Mississippi All-Stars' drummer Cody Dickinson and bassist Chris Chew. Their debut suggests the Allman Brothers with guitars flashing lightning-like across a thudding, locked-in rhythm section. Third-generation Southern rock with a minor in country blues. (Philip Martin)

James Luther Dickinson, Dinosaurs Run In Circles, Memphis International, B

An amusingly relaxed and offhand piano-based blues set of standards and near-standards are played and sung with some panache by legendary Memphis sideman Jim Dickinson (Rolling Stones, Aretha Franklin, Alex Chilton, Dr. John, Flaming Groovies, Download this: "When You Wish Upon a Star," Champion Jack Dupree's "Who Threw the Whiskey in the Well," Louis Jordan's "Early in the Morning." (Philip Martin)

Stevie Nicks, The Soundstage Sessions, Reprise, B

Back in the day, Nicks (with and without Fleetwood Mac) was a fanciful rock star. Now her music dwells in the realm of nostalgia and easy listening. The 10 songs here (mostly her classics recorded for the Live in Chicago DVD) are lush orchestral stuff - danceable and soft on the ears, but with mostly predictable results. Download this: "Rhiannon," "Landslide," "Crash." (Rhonda Owen)

Bob Dylan, Together Through Life, Columbia, B

Here's my theory: Some time ago Dylan figured that there were people who listened too closely to his words. He got bored with being interpreted and professors unpacking his meaning. He's returned to his roots, to the first music that ever excited him, and he's recycled their koans and themes, mixing and matching for his own enjoyment and playing strictly for pleasure. On first, second and third listenings, the album reveals itself as a sturdy if minor collection of sturdy, minor songs. Download this: "My Wife's Hometown," the zydeco stomp "It's All Good" and "If You Ever Go to Houston." (PHILIP MARTIN)

Asher Roth, Asleep in the Bread Aisle, SchoolBoy/SRC/Motown, A

Thanks in large part to the color of this 23-year-old Pennsylvania newcomer's skin and an uncanny similarity in voice inflection, comparisons to Eminem are unavoidable. But listeners will discern a parallel in skill level and ability to entertain in various ways as they glide through Asher Roth's well-done debut. Download this: "Be By Myself" with Cee-Lo Green, "She Don't Wanna Man" with Keri Hilson and "As I Em," in which Roth addresses the Eminem comparisons with flare and wit. (SHON McPEACE)

Kevin Kerby + Battery, Beautiful & Bright, Max Recordings, A

Kerby's a pro and his honest, solid songwriting is so heartening and refreshing that we wish reviews like this matter - "something obvious and bright, that's what we need." Download this: "Beautiful and Bridght," "You and Your Chemical Smile," "The Devil Is Real." (Philip Martin)

John Doe & The Sadies, Country Club, Yep Roc, A-

Singer-songwriter and guitarist John Doe (ex-X, Knitters) digs deeply into classic country in collaboration with the rootsy band The Sadies; both revere and understand this music. Doe's spacious singing lets the inherent feelings emerge without excessive vocalizing or overwrought, false emotion. Download this: the edgy take on "Night Life," the aching "Till I Get It Right" and the still-timely "Are the Good Times Really Over for Good." (ELLIS WIDNER)

Nels Cline, Coward, Cryptogramophone, B

Nels Cline, guitarist for Wilco, is also a highly accomplished jazz artist. His latest is a pastiche of straightforward, luminous instrumentals, prickly movements and warped country. Download this: "Prayer Wheel," "The Nomad's Home" and the six-part "Onan (Suite)," a moody, experimental work. (Sean Clancy)

Grateful Dead, To Terrapin: Hartford '77, Rhino, A

The Grateful Dead was near its creative peak in 1977 with the album Terrapin Station about to drop. This superb concert at the Hartford, Conn., Civic Center on May 28, has s some of the new songs and some classics. And yes, a 19-minute of "Sugaree" with transcendent guitar solos by Jerry Garcia. Download this: "Sugaree," "Samson and Delilah," "Bertha." (JACK W. HILL)

Rick Ross, Deeper Than Rap, Maybach/Poe Boy/Def Jam, A-

Mindless beefs with 50 Cent aside, Rick Ross' latest is the best hip-hop album this year, so far. His artistic growth is evident, his desire to create a superior album is apparent and his appetite to be recognized as an artist is strong. Download this: "Magnificent," "Mafia Music" (with The Incredibles) and "Maybach Music II" with T-Pain, Kanye West and Li'l Wayne. (SHON MCPEACE)

Cracker, Sunrise in the Land of Milk and Honey, 429, A-

More than a dozen years removed from their minor chart successes of the mid-1990s ("Low," "Eurotrash Girl," etc.), it's comforting to discover that Cracker is still plugging away with its Southern-flavored alt-rock. Download this: "Yalla Yalla." (PHILIP MARTIN)

Jason Michael Carroll, Growing Up Is Getting Old, Arista, B+

Carroll's first album in 2007 debuted at No. 1 and he hit the Top 5 with the songs "Alyssa Lies" and "Livin' Our Love Song." Carroll has a country singer's voice (think Alan Jackson) and tends to favor a rootsy style with a rockin' edge. Download this: party tunes "Happened on a Saturday Night" and "Barn Burner" and the moving ballad "Tears." (ELLIS WIDNER)

Heaven & Hell, The Devil You Know, Rhino, D

Heaven and Hell, one of guitarist Tony Iommi's incarnations of metal's venerable Black Sabbath (which he founded), tries to recapture the intensity of Sabbath's heaviest songs. But the best that Iommi and vocalist Ronnie James Dio, bassist Geezer Butler and drummer Vinny Appice deliver is rhythmic sludge. (RHONDA OWEN)

Yusuf Islam, Roadsinger, A&M, B

The artist formerly known as Cat Stevens rebooted his music career three years ago. Roadsinger has many of the '70s elements fans loved - low key and softer music and singing. The spiritual journey is the metaphor in many of these tunes. Download this: "Shamsia," a haunting and moving story about an Afghan girl who defied the Taliban to attend school; "Dream On, "To Be What You Must." (ELLIS WIDNER)

Jadakiss, The Last Kiss, Roc-A-Fella/Def Jam, A

Free expression, unmatched lyrical skill and banging beats highlight Jadakiss' third album. Download this: "Can't Stop Me Now," "By My Side" with Ne-Yo, "What If" with Nas. (SHON MCPEACE)

Pet Shop Boys, Yes, Astralwerks, B+

What's the musical equivalent of Botox? Because the electronic lushness of the Pet Shop Boys, the sophisticated dance/pop duo of Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe, has no wrinkles. Unlike those of us who lost track of the hit makers behind "West End Girls" and "It's a Sin" back in the '80s. Listening to Yes, the group's, yes, 10th album, we're able to catch up with the Boys - now men in or about to be in their 50s who have done everything from working on movie soundtracks to presenting a stage musical - right where we left off. Download this: the lighthearted "Did You See Me Coming?" and the hypnotic "All Over the World," which borrows from Tchaikovsky's The Nutcracker Suite. (JENNIFER CHRISTMAN)

Allen Toussaint, The Bright Mississippi, Nonesuch, A

Gifted New Orleans icon Allen Toussaint has, at age 71, taken an unexpected but brilliant step on his first solo album in a decade. After a 2006 collaboration with Elvis Costello, Toussaint offers this rootsy celebration of the greats who built the New Orleans sound. Download this: the street-beat take on Sidney Bechet's "Egyptian Fantasy," Duke Ellington's "Solitude" and traditional favorites "Just a Closer Walk With Thee" and "St. James Infirmary." (ELLIS WIDNER)

The Breeders, Fate to Fatal, Self-released, B+

The Breeders follow last year's Mountain Battles with Fate to Fatal, a catchy and moody four-songer. There's a cover song (Bob Marley's "Chances Are"), a guest appearance (Mark Lanegan sings lead on the wistful "The Last Time"), and a blast of sloppy power pop (the title cut). (SEAN CLANCY)

Bonnie Prince Billy, Beware, Drag City, B

Bonnie Prince Billy is the nom de musique of Will Oldham, a formerly willfully obscure singer-songwriter and actor from Louisville, Ky., who, at 38, seems to finally be embracing pop cult stardom. Beware is a bright band record that sounds like professionally realized country rock, with tight arrangements sparkling through a sweet choral din. Download this: "Beware Your Only Friend," "You Don't Love Me." (PHILIP MARTIN)

Queensryche, American Soldier, Rhino, B+

Progressive metal band Queensryche, known for intelligent and socially conscious music, delves into the emotional and physical tolls of war in a concept album that's impassioned but never overwrought. Download this: "The Killer," "Silver," "At 30,000 Feet." (RHONDA OWEN)

Rodney Atkins, It's America, Curb, A-

Atkins' latest has its toe-tappers and an underlying soul that can be felt in every song. Download this: "Chasing Girls," "Fifteen Minutes." (SHON MCPEACE)

Wynton Marsalis, He and She, Blue Note, C

The jazz trumpeter's quintet takes on love is explored in lyrical and tasteful music that impresses at times, but feels distant and without heart. Marsalis expounds on the theme with his poetry, which is more distracting than supportive. Download this: "The Sun and the Moon." (ELLIS WIDNER)

I Was a King, I Was a King, The Control Group, B

Norwegian trio's second album sounds more like a product of the mid-'90s, with its fuzzy squawk and moments of heartfelt inspiration. It's wistful, playful, poppy and brief - about 30 minutes' worth of instant nostalgia. Download this: "Golden Years." (PHILIP MARTIN)

Bacon Brothers, New Year's Day. Forosoco, C+

Pleasant and sometimes surprisingly funky set of light jazz pop songs from actor Kevin (a fine enough singer) and his brother Michael (who's supported himself as a musician for years). They're really not bad, though none of their songs ever elevates the project above the sort of "let's amuse ourselves" level. Download this: "New Year's Day." (Philip Martin)

Thom Schuyler, Prayer of a Desperate Man, TSJ, B+

Songwriter Thom Schuyler recorded and toured with Paul Overstreet, Craig Bickhardt and J. Fred Knobloch in the late '80s and early '90s as a quartet and a trio. Schuyler's intimate recording of acoustic-based songs can dig, or cut, deeply. Download this: "Starting to Go," "When She Danced with Me." (ELLIS WIDNER)

Jupiter Rising, The Quiet Hype, Chime Entertainment, C-

Jupiter Rising's feeble attempt at an eclectic, fun romp through dance-floor anthems and fresh ballads quickly spirals into a series of incessant, weak electro beats and annoying hooks. Download this: "When the Bass Drops" is a pretty nice cut. ( SHON McPEACE)

Norman Connors, Star Power, Shanachie, B

Jazz drummer Norman Connors continues to bring R&B and jazz together via a bevy of new songs and covers of his past hits. A pleasant listen-to for a lazy weekend. Download this: "Where Do We Go From Here" with Howard Hewett and Antoinette, "You Are My Starship," with Peabo Bryson. (Helaine R. Williams)

Paul Jackson, Jr., Lay It Back, Branch, A

Paul Jackson, Jr., is an accomplished guitarist whose instrumentation is pristine. Download this: the cool, rousing jam "The Workout," Stevie Wonder's "Don't You Worry About A Thing." (SHON McPEACE)

Joshua Redman, Compass, Nonesuch, A

Saxophonist Joshua Redman calls this album "an expansion on, and an extension of" Back East, his 2007 project. What an extension. It's the most fun modern jazz can get with no piano or horn section. Download this: the seductive and haunting "Ghost," the frenzied and aptly named "Insomnomanic." (HELAINE R. WILLIAMS)

Rascal Flatts, Unstoppable, Lyric Street, B

There's no mistaking a Rascal Flatts song, especially its bigger-than-life ballads. There's a savvy mix of country-ish soft passages and big choruses fired by rock guitars that take on an anthem-like quality, giving singer Gary LeVox a great showcase. "Forever" is a prime example. It's like a country-leaning Styx and Journey. Predictable? Very. But the once adventurous trio is getting awfully formulaic. Download this: "Forever." (ELLIS WIDNER)

Booker T., Potato Hole, Anti-, A

An early contender for instrumental party record of the year, this is a funky, weird collaboration between legendary Memphis Hammond B-3 maestro Booker T. (Jones) and Southern Rock revivalists Drive-By Truckers, augmented by hired guitar Neil Young. Still, it's Booker's keys that carry the load. Download this: the trippy Outkast cover "Hey Ya!," Tom Waits' "Get Behind the Mule" and the Truckers' "Space City." Available April 21. (PHILIP MARTIN)

UGK, UGK 4 Life, Jive/UGK, A

With the untimely death of Pimp C looming over the final stages of creation, this album could've become a downtrodden memorial to the half of UGK that supplied the group's unmistakable and limitless swagger. Thankfully, it is a celebration of UGK's essence - Southern style, unmatched bravado, expert wordplay and soul drenched beats. Download this: "Da Game Been Good To Me," "The Pimp and The Bun." (SHON McPEACE)

Flo Rida, R.O.O.T.S., Poe Boy/Atlantic, B-

Flo Rida reminds us all that if we can just make it to the weekend, things won't seem so bad. Download this: "Right Round," which samples Dead or Alive's 1984 hit "You Spin Me Round (Like a Record)" and "Shone," with Pleasure P. (SHON McPEACE)

Randy Crawford and Joe Sample, No Regrets, PRA, A-

Singer Randy Crawford and pianist Joe Sample is an incomparable listening experience. This is their second collaboration, may there be more. Download this: a jazzy cover of The Staple Singers' "Respect Yourself" and a tear-jerking take on Sarah McLachlan's "Angel." (HELAINE R. WILLIAMS)

Miley Cyrus, Hannah Montana: The Movie, Walt Disney, B

Just as the TV albums, the 18-song movie album is a girly, giddy slumber party with plenty of caffeine and candy. Download this: the dancey "Let's Get Crazy," the catchy "The Good Life." (JENNIFER CHRISTMAN)

Neil Young, Fork in the Road, Reprise, C

These mostly hard-rock songs are inspired by his attempts to retool a 1959 Lincoln Continental to run on alternative energy. Too much of the record is like listening to a friend talking about the practical advantages of his new lawn mower. Download this: the tender "Light a Candle," the only song on which he sounds like less than a curmudgeon. (Douglas Lytle, bloomberg news)

Ment 2B, Ment 2B, M2B Music, A

This Pine Bluff trio reminds us that R&B in the tradition of Boyz II Men, Jodeci and Blacktreet is not lost. Download this: the suave "Lock Me Up," the dance-minded "Wet." Sample the music at: (SHON MCPEACE)

Bob Mould, Life and Times, Anti-, A

Ex-Husker Du and Sugar singer-songwriter has recorded a number of solo albums. Mould is a master at dissecting heartbreak and letdowns, and Life and Times finds Mould just as wrenched by love as ever. Download this: the angst-riddled "I'm Sorry, Baby, But You Can't Stand in My Light Anymore." (SEAN CLANCY)

Willie Nile, House of a Thousand Guitars, River House, C+

Willie Nile is an interesting and inconsistent performer with a blue-collar ethos that presents as power-pop authenticity even when he's singing throwaway lyrics. The banality of the lyrics suggest a case of writer's block. (Philip Martin)

Diana Krall, Quiet Nights, Verve, A-

Diana Krall re-engages with the music of Brazil and arranger Claus Ogerman. Krall is in fine voice, intimate and personal. Ogerman arranged Frank Sinatra's duet album with Antonio Carlos Jobim. Quiet Nights is sensual and mellow. Download this: "Walk on By," "Quiet Nights," "Este Seu Olhar." (ELLIS WIDNER)

Gorilla Zoe, Don't Feed Da Animals, Bad Boy/Atlantic, C-

Gorilla Zoe's second effort has flashes of promise where it appeared he wanted to show maturity and growth. Be forewarned: While the radio version of "Lost" has Lil Wayne, he's nowhere to be found on Zoe's album version. But for every "Lost," there are songs like "I'm Dumb" that outweigh Zoe's potential. Download this: "Lost," "Echo" (SHON McPEACE)

Dan Auerbach, Keep It Hid, Nonesuch, B

Black Keys frontman Dan Auerbach steps out tentatively with his first solo album, which is a tour through the sounds of the '60s. At his best, Auerbach's tattered voice swoons and strains for glory, recalling John Fogerty. Download this: "My Last Mistake," "Mean Monsoon." (Philip Martin)

Keith Urban, Defying Gravity, Capitol, B-

Catchy, pop and rock with some country flavors here and there. Not as substantive as Love, Pain & the Whole Crazy Thing, but has its toe-tapping charms. Download this: "Thank You," "Kiss a Girl." (ELLIS WIDNER)

Leela James, Let's Do It Again, Shanachie, A

With her gets-down-in-you raspy voice, soulful singer James infuses contemporary styling and right-on-time spontaneity into R&B and rock classics. Download this: "Miss You," "It's A Man's Man's Man's World" and "Let's Do It Again." (HELAINE R. WILLIAMS)

Bruce Cockburn, Slice O Life, Rounder, B+

After all these (35) years, Cockburn is still working the once-rich, but now all but played-out singer-songwriter vein, and finding within himself a capacity for surprise on this live, solo double-CD filled with literate lyrics and virtuostic acoustic guitar work. Download this: "City Is Hungry," "If I Had a Rocket Launcher," "Lovers in a Dangerous Time." (Philip Martin)

The Decemberists, The Hazards of Love, Capitol, B+

A concept album rooted in folkloric imagery that recalls British folk-rockers Strawbs and Fairport Convention with a little Procol Harum and Yes mixed in. Download this: "The Hazards of Love 1," "The Queen's Rebuke." (ELLIS WIDNER)

Marianne Faithfull, Easy Come Easy Go, Decca, A

Faithfull's latest is subtitled "12 Songs for Music Lovers" and that's certainly the case. Download this: "Sing Me Back Home," "The Crane Wife 3." (Jack W. Hill)

Coffy, Eclipse, Turn Project Inc., A

This Arkansas poet, playwright and writer creates a spoken word journey with broad, vivid strokes that explore human emotions. Download this: "Medusa," "Knee Deep" and "Just This." (SHON McPEACE)

Nat "King" Cole and Various Artists, Re: Generations, Capitol, A-

The songs of the great Nat "King" Cole meet an array of R&B/hip-hop reimaginers. The results are intriguing and creative. Still, the best way to introduce a new audience to the classics is to just play 'em the originals. Download this: "Lush Life," "Brazilian Love Song." (SHON MCPEACE)

Blue October, Approaching Normal, Universal/Motown, A

Justin Furstenfeld is still tortured, but his new songs reveal emerging emotional strength and confidence. Download this: "Say It," "Jump Rope." (RHONDA OWEN)

Martina McBride, Shine, RCA, B+

Optimism to spare; even heavier tunes are brightened by hopefulness. Download this: "You're Not Leaving Me." (JENNIFER CHRISTMAN)

Eric Church, Carolina, Capitol, B+

Solid, somewhat brighter-toned follow-up to fiery country artist's debut Sinners Like Me. Download this: "Love Your Love the Most." (PHILIP MARTIN)

Ronnie Milsap, Then Sings My Soul, Starsong, D

Mostly traditional gospel songs with music that sounds like it came from a karaoke machine. (ELLIS WIDNER)

Kelly Clarkson, All I Ever Wanted, RCA, B+

Restores the pop faith with "I Do Not Hook Up," "My Life Would Suck Without You" and "I Want You." Download this: "I Do Not Hook Up." (JENNIFER CHRISTMAN)

Madeleine Peyroux, Bare Bones, Rounder, B+

Singer becomes songwriter on new album, collaborating with producer Larry Klein, songwriter/producer Joe Henry and Steely Dan's Walter Becker. Same sound, more personal. Download this: "Love and Treachery." (ELLIS WIDNER)

Buddy & Julie Miller, Written in Chalk, New West, A

Superior songwriters and singers have 11 solo albums between them; this is their second together. A fine album that's all over the Americana musical map. Download this: "The Selfishness of Man," with Emmylou Harris. (JACK HILL)

Justin Townes Earle, Midnight at the Movies, Bloodshot, B+

Son of Steve Earle wears his punk country roots proudly. Songwriting is evolving, but this beats most of what's on modern country radio these days. Download this: "Can't Hardly Wait," a canny cover of the Replacements song. (PHILIP MARTIN)

Various artists, Watchmen soundtrack, Warner Bros., B

Music reflects the film's several decades-long timeline with Nat "King' Cole, K.C. & the Sunshine Band, Nina Simone and My Chemical Romance's bracing cover of Bob Dylan's "Desolation Row." Download this: "Pirate Jenny" by Nina Simone. (ELLIS WIDNER)

Chris Isaak, Mr. Lucky, Warner Bros., B

First new album in seven years. Isaak's voice has the dramatic urgency of Roy Orbison. Download this: "We Let Her Down." (JACK HILL)

Neko Case, Middle Cyclone, Anti-, A-

Sparkly pop with a dark edge. Download this: "The Tornado Loves You." (PHILIP MARTIN)

Jonas Brothers, Music From The 3D Concert Experience, Hollywood, C-

The shrill screeching of she-admirers makes this 14-song album, containing hits like "Hold On" and "Pushin' Me Away," unlistenable. (JENNIFER CHRISTMAN)

Raul Malo, Lucky One, Fantasy, A-

First original music in eight years from ex-Mavericks singer Malo, who has one of American music's most beautiful voices. Download this: "So Beautiful." (ELLIS WIDNER)

Arvo Part, In Principio, Nonesuch, A-

The mystery inherent in Part's music is inspired by his search and yearning for spiritual union with the divine. Download this: "Da Pacem Domine." (ELLIS WIDNER)

Zuill Bailey, Russian Masterpieces for Cello and Orchestra, Telarc, B

A fine buy performance-wise of Tchaikovsky's Variations on a Rococo Theme and Shostakovich's Cello Concerto No. 1, but the recording is sonically a little claustrophobic, with a disturbing lack of reverberation. (ERIC E. HARRISON)

Filthy Rich, Da Rich Life, Team Management, A

Part of Lil Rok Playaz, Arkansas' Filthy Rich steps out solo in this stylist hip-hop set. Download this: "How It Goes Down." (SHON MCPEACE)

Phosphorescent, For Willie, Dead Oceans, A-

Indie rootsy act sparkles on this tribute to Willie Nelson by choosing the less-than-obvious tunes. Download this: "It's Not Supposed to Be That Way." (ELLIS WIDNER)

Barrett Baber, Guys Like Me, Self-released, B+

This Arkansas singer-songwriter's tunes seem to capture a guy somewhere between settling down and living it up. Download this: "Guys Like Me" at (CODY FORD)

Van Morrison, Astral Weeks Live at the Hollywood Bowl, Listen to the Lions Records, A

Transcendent live recording of songs from Morrison's celebrated album some 40 years after its release. Download this: "Astral Weeks." (JACK HILL)

Various artists, Dark Was the Night, 4AD, B+

Benefit compilation from the AIDS-fighting Red Hot Organization produced by Aaron and Bryce Dessner of The National. Treasure of indie delights. Download this: "Brackett, WI" by Bon Iver. (MIKAEL WOOD)

Loch Ness Monster, Eleven Traditional Songs, Max, B+

Little Rock band's slash and burn guitar/drums sound is nothing new, but welcome indeed. Download this: "Rolling Over Headless Pillows." (WERNER TRIESCHMANN)

M. Ward, Hold Time, Merge, A+

Ancient-sounding vocals, skillful guitarist, superb songs. What's not to like? Download this: "Rave On," with Zooey Deschanel (JACK HILL)


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