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Picks and Pans Main: Music

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David Cook

This Loud Morning |


“Give me one more quiet night ‘fore this loud morning gets it right and does me in,” sings David Cook on rootsy stunner “Rapid Eye Movement.” Mined for the album’s title, the line marks one of the record’s themes: finding strength to face the day. The American Idol winner lost older brother Adam to cancer in 2009, and his raw vulnerability is on display on his sophomore effort. Cook’s rasp is especially haunting on the rapturous “Circadian” but becomes tedious on the Ryan Tedder co-penned “The Last Goodbye.” The sweeping “Goodbye to the Girl,” though, will make Bono lovers proud.

Dolly Parton

Better Day |


As spunky as ever at 65, Parton displays her signature sass throughout this excellent set of self-written odes to optimism. Uplifting tunes such as the bluesy title track and the upbeat “In the Meantime,” a call to “drop this doomsday attitude and get on with the show,” offer the kind of straight talk that has endeared her to fans since the 1960s. Other standouts include the rock-tinged “Shine Like the Sun” and the hoedown-ready “Country Is as Country Does.” The milder moments are equally engrossing, especially the kiss-off ballad “Get Out and Stay Out” and the piano-laced “I Just Might,” both showing that an artist can keep getting better with time some 50 years into her career.