By Chuck Arnold Marisa Laudadio
April 12, 2010 12:00 PM

Alan Jackson

Freight Train |

COUNTRY

On one of the highlights of his new album, Alan Jackson sings that “The Best Keeps Getting Better.” While he’s referring to a relationship that’s “like a 30-year-old wine,” he could also be crowing about his staying power in Nashville in the face of many younger bucks. Indeed, his last album, 2008’s Good Time, went platinum and produced three No. 1 country singles. He won’t be derailed on Freight Train, another pleasant journey with Jackson exuding an easygoing confidence. Tunes such as the wistful “Every Now and Then” play well to his strengths, displaying the power of keeping it simple.

DOWNLOAD THIS: “Taillights Blue,” an indigo-hued breakup ballad

Erykah Badu

New Amerykah Part Two: Return of the Ankh |

CRITIC’S CHOICE

R&B

Like an Egyptian queen, Erykah Badu came out wielding an ankh with her Grammy-winning debut, Baduizm. And in many ways, this is the album that fans have been waiting for ever since that 1997 landmark (although 2000’s Mama’s Gun remains her crowning achievement). Wrapped in warm neo-soul textures-with funky, undulating grooves and back-in-the-day samples-it’s more earthbound than 2008’s New Amerykah Part One: 4th World War, forgoing the political for the personal this time.

DOWNLOAD THIS: “Window Seat,” a smooth, sumptuous magic-carpet ride

Angelique Kidjo

Oyo |

WORLD BEAT

It’s a testament to Angelique Kidjo’s crossover cachet that the Benin-born singer got both Bono and John Legend to appear on “Move On Up,” the rousing, rhythmic highlight of the eclectic Oyo. Elsewhere, jazz vocalist Dianne Reeves and trumpeter Roy Hargrove help Kidjo riff on Aretha and Santana, respectively. One world, indeed.

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