By Chuck Arnold and Jessica Herndon
Updated July 08, 2013 12:00 PM

Hunter Hayes

Hunter Hayes (Encore) |


When Hunter Hayes’s self-titled debut came out in October 2011, it slipped through the cracks for this critic. Since then he’s become a Grammy-nominated, hit-making heartthrob. Now the 21-year-old singer and multi-instrumentalist has released a deluxe edition of Hunter Hayes that includes five new songs and three rerecorded tracks, and it gives me a chance to weigh in on the old stuff. Certainly the No. 1 country singles “Wanted” and “Somebody’s Heartbreak” still sparkle with their sheer craftsmanship, and they transcend the genre in a way that demonstrates Hayes is capable of being a real pop star à la Taylor Swift. Even better is “Rainy Season,” a bluesy ballad that, showcasing Hayes’s guitar skills, makes him out to be a junior John Mayer. “Everybody’s Got Somebody but Me,” reworked here as a duet with Jason Mraz, displays folk-pop charms to rival the aforementioned’s “I’m Yours.” Best of the new tunes is the mandolin-laced single “I Want Crazy,” which, as one of the most country songs here, proves Hayes is not looking to leave Nashville behind.

Mavis Staples

One True Vine |


After winning her very first Grammy with Jeff Tweedy behind the boards for 2010’s You Are Not Alone, Mavis Staples again achieves soulful glory with the Wilco frontman. New gospel-spirited songs by Tweedy and Nick Lowe mix with covers like Funkadelic’s “Can You Get to That.” Then there’s her bluesy take on father Pops Staples’s “I Like the Things About Me,” which she inhabits with true grit.