April 26, 2010 12:00 PM

Willie Nelson

Country Music |


After venturing into blues (Milk Cow Blues), reggae (Countryman), jazz (Two Men with the Blues with Wynton Marsalis) and standards (American Classic) in the ’00s, Willie Nelson gets back to his roots on the simply titled Country Music. With T Bone Burnett producing-using some of the musicians he worked with on Robert Plant and Alison Krauss’ Grammy-winning Raising Sand-the results are predictably solid, surrounding this old-timer with old-time sounds on traditional tunes like “Satisfied Mind.” But it’s hardly revelatory: Burnett just lets Willie be Willie, and Nelson makes it all sound so easy, it’s almost like he’s coasting. Probably it’s just the cool in him.

DOWNLOAD THIS: “Nobody’s Fault But Mine,” a bluesy, haunting spiritual

Kate Nash

My Best Friend Is You |


Kate Nash, who attended the same London performing-arts school that gave us Amy Winehouse, Leona Lewis and Adele, did not achieve the same Stateside success as those divas with her 2008 debut, Made of Bricks. In the U.K., though, the album went No. 1. Hopefully, the U.S. will catch on to her quirky charms this time, as Nash has delivered another winning, whimsical set of cheeky chick pop. She brings a wide-screen orchestral sound to tracks like “Don’t You Want to Share the Guilt?” And guilty pleasure is just what she offers on the girl-group-influenced “Do-Wah-Doo.”

DOWNLOAD THIS: “Kiss That Grrl,” a bouncy-and biting-’60s throwback

Shelby Lynne

Tears, Lies, and Alibis |


After younger sister Allison Moorer set the bar high with Crows in February, Shelby Lynne matches her with an album that veers toward twang after the torch of 2008’s Just a Little Lovin’. Keeping it raw, the heartache goes down deep on songs like the soulful standout “Alibi.”

Bobby McFerrin

VOCAbuLarieS |


Ten-time Grammy winner Bobby McFerrin will always be best known for “Don’t Worry, Be Happy,” his 1988 No. 1 hit. But that whistling ditty hardly prepares you for this ambitious work, a veritable symphony of voices including R&B singer Lisa Fischer, Brazilian artist Luciana Souza and the Manhattan Transfer’s Janis Siegel. With complex, cascading vocal arrangements creating expansive layers of sound, it unfolds in seven movements that range from jazz and classical to African territory. Along the way, lyrics are sung in such diverse tongues as Sanskrit, Hebrew and Mandarin. But as McFerrin sings on the highlight “Say Ladeo,” “Time for taking words away/ The melody will tell the story as we go along.”

Natalie Merchant

Leave Your Sleep |


Natalie Merchant emerges from a seven-year recording slumber with a sprawling double disc of songs adapted from poems. The eclectic musical settings, such as reggae on “Topsyturvey-World,” mostly keep you from nodding off.


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