Todd Snider: East Nashville Skyline (Oh Boy)
Alt country surrealism from former Portlander released by John Prine’s Oh Boy label. Funny, impish and weird songs from the other side of the tracks. If Edgar Allan Poe had written country songs, they might have come out something like “Tillamook County Jail.”
Will Kimbrough: Americanitis (Emergent)
Famous session guitarist proves he is more than capable of leading his band with this roaring indictment of American hubris.
Shannon McNally and Charlie Sexton: Southside Sessions (Back Porch)
A gorgeous and unadorned set from New Orleans singer Shannon McNally and guitarist Charlie Sexton, fresh off of the Dylan tour. Their gripping cover of Jesse Winchester’s Biloxi just might make you break down.
The Impressions: Fabulous Impressions/We’re a Winner (Kent)
Two early albums packaged together by one of the greatest soul harmony groups of the 1960s, featuring the great Curtis Mayfield. Even the cover of “Up, Up and Away” holds up, but the real gems here are “Isle of the Sirens,” “We’re a Winner” and “Let Me Tell the World.”
Elizabeth Cook: This Side of the Moon (Emergent)
Ms. Cook looks like a fashion model, sings like Loretta Lynn.
Carlene Carter: Love Letters (Giant Records)
A country rock classic that improves with time. Of course, the fact that Carlene raw vocals are backed by a band that includes Benmont Trench, Albert Lee and Roy Huskey, Jr. doesn’t hurt, either.
Tony Williams: Spring (Blue Note)
When Miles Davis stepped out of the room, teen sensation Tony Williams commandeered the rest of the band–including Wayne Shorter and Herbie Hancock–to record this challenging set of grooving, post-bop jazz. At 18, Williams lead one of the most talented groups of musicians ever assembled into territory they’d never have ventured on their own.
JEFFREY ST. CLAIR is the author of Been Brown So Long It Looked Like Green to Me: the Politics of Nature and Grand Theft Pentagon: Tales of Corruption and Profiteering from the War on Terror. His music writing is collected in Serpents in the Garden. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.