Terry Anderson and the OAK Team


When the Oakteam Comes to Town

(Doublenaught). Befitting a band called the Olympic Ass-Kickin' Team, this live set


But it's the kind of good old rock-and-roll that, for all its hook-happy, hick-happy brilliance, is shunned these days by the pop market and the indie hipsters. We're happy to give it a home here.

Mike Farris


Salvation in Lights

(INO/Columbia). The rocker turns to gospel and, using standards and originals, tells a rousing tale of redemption that mirrors his own back-from-the-depths story.

Eilen Jewell


Letters From Sinners & Strangers

(Signature Sounds). The young singer and songwriter brings a Billie Holiday sultriness and a Lucinda Williams plaintiveness to classic country, jazz and blues styles, forging a low-key but alluring brand of Americana that's all her own.

Tim Krekel


Soul Season

(Natchez Trace). Long an underappreciated singer, writer and guitarist, Krekel outdoes himself with this horn-fired rock-and-soul gem that can stand with the best of Eddie Hinton and Delbert McClinton. It narrowly edges out the suave, world-weary country-soul of Nick Lowe's

At My Age.

Miranda Lambert


Crazy Ex-Girlfriend

(Sony/BMG). Lots of young Nashville stars try to sound tough and edgy, but few do it with the convincing bite that this spitfire brings to her second album. She gets the nod over Sarah Johns and her Loretta Lynn-ish debut,

Big Love in a Small Town.

Bettye LaVette


The Scene of the Crime

(Anti-). The real crime is that it took this never-say-die soul diva four decades to start getting the attention she deserves. She continues to make the most of it with this killer set on which she is backed by Southern rockers the Drive-By Truckers. A close call over Betty Harris' comeback,



Billy Joe Shaver


Everybody's Brother

(Compadre). It's the gospel according to Billy Joe, as the great honky-tonk song poet expounds on his singular brand of Christian spirituality and again draws from his own (often stranger-than-fiction) life. He barely beats out two fellow Texans, Johnny Bush with

Kashmere Gardens Mud

and Dale Watson with

From the Cradle to the Grave


Kenny Wayne Shepherd


10 Days Out: Blues From the Back Roads

(Warner Bros.). The young blues-rock guitar hotshot shows plenty of substance and selflessness as he journeys through his native South and shares the spotlight with world legends (B.B. King) and regional heroes. He brings well-deserved attention to such lesser-known treasures as Buddy Flett and Bryan Lee.

Mavis Staples


We'll Never Go Back

(Anti-). The gospel/soul great revives some of the "freedom songs" she first sang during the civil rights movement of the '60s as a member of the Staple Singers. And she shows in stark, powerful fashion how these gospel numbers remain relevant today.

Tommy Womack


There, I Said It!

(Cedar Creek). The veteran roots-rocker pulls off a tough trick - singing about his nervous breakdown in a way that's engrossing and entertaining. He does it with unflinching honesty and plenty of wit, and the ultimate uplift rings perfectly true.