August 24, 2009 12:00 PM

Keep On Loving You | []


Let Taylor Swift play to the teenyboppers; Reba McEntire, embracing all of her 54 years, is clearly comfortable with her place as an elder stateswoman in country music. On her new album, that is never more obvious than on the bittersweet standout “She’s Turning 50 Today,” the only song the singer had a hand in writing. McEntire brings a middle-aged perspective as the birthday girl, after her husband leaves her “for a woman that was half her age,” sets out to start a new life. She also deals with mature issues on “Eight Crazy Hours (In the Story of Love),” a ballad about a mother who wonders, “Should I be more sexy?” But, as demonstrated by tracks like the sassy single “Strange,” McEntire is not too old to have fun.


Turn Me Loose | [3½]




On the follow-up to Ledisi’s 2007 breakthrough, Lost and Found, this soul diva leaves no doubt as to why she earned a Grammy nomination for Best New Artist. The New Orleans native, who cowrote 13 of the album’s 14 tracks, belts with rousing abandon on the funky opener “Runnin’,” while serving up some lyrical sauce on the Caribbean-flavored kiss-off “Trippin'”: “Mama told me watch out for bad boys, but I didn’t listen/ Giving all my stuff away for some hugs and kissin’.” And when this lady sings the blues on the Al Greenish “Love Never Changes” and the fiery title track, turning her loose is the last thing that you’ll want to do.

DOWNLOAD THIS: “Knockin’,” a Tina Turneresque funk-rocker

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