Angaleena Presley was the last member of the Pistol Annies - the sassy, tough-gal country trio that also includes the considerable songwriting talents of Miranda Lambert and Ashley Monroe - to get around to releasing a solo album. But the coal miner's daughter from Beauty, Ky., made it count, with last year's American Middle Class. The 12-song collection demonstrated an empathetic writer's eye on country and soul-tinged tunes like "Pain Pills," "Grocery Store," and "Drunk" that never condescend or pander as they sing the working-class blues. One not to miss.
- Dan DeLuca
Elliott Smith wrote some of the most perfect songs of the late '90s and early 2000s. He was a quiet classicist, a student of the Beatles and Big Star, adept at expressing heartfelt emotions in a way that was simultaneously fragile and tough-minded. Seth Avett of the Avett Brothers and Jessica Lea Mayfield have recorded an understated, loving album of Smith's songs. It's a mostly acoustic affair that features the two alt-country singers harmonizing on Smith classics such as "Angel in the Snow," "Between the Bars," and "Let's Get Lost." On the eve of the album's release, Avett and Mayfield bring the Smith songbook, and perhaps a few of their own excellent tunes, to the Keswick Theatre.
- Steve Klinge
He may live in Brooklyn at present, but Don McCloskey's roots are in Bristol, and in the years he spent at St. Joe's Prep with his old pal Rob McElhenney of
It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia
fame. McCloskey's music is heard on his buddy's series (he's also done live shows with its cast) as well as other television series, such as
and Michael Moore's documentary
Bowling for Columbine
. In deeply goofy and literate albums such as
Bombs over Bristol
, his rich, creaky voice and funny, smart folk tunes are proudly displayed.
- A.D. Amorosi