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Various Artists: Classic American Ballads

Moral evil, natural evil -- hard times. That's the purview of Classic American Ballads.

Music

Down by the Riverside: Thelonious Monk's High-Water Mark

The Complete Riverside Recordings comprises 15 discs' worth of raw material to sift through, a formidable task with endless rewards.

Music

Leo Bud Welch: I Don't Prefer No Blues

On this latest album, Leo Bud Welch makes the blues sound like the future and, at 82 years old, his future is bright.

Music

Various Artists: An Americana Christmas

A collection that makes up for its lack of original content in whimsy.

Music

Charlie Christian: The Genius of the Electric Guitar

The best introduction to Charlie Christian's work is also the most comprehensive.

Music

Wendy Rene: After Laughter Comes Tears

After Laughter Comes Tears presents a full and satisfying picture of a figure that has only been visible in glimpses and shadows.

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Various Artists: Aimer et Perdre: To Love and Lose Songs, 1917-1934

For adventurous listeners with sensibilities trained by the Harry Smith Anthology, this is surely as essential as any other release that will land this year.

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Tomkins Square

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Duke Ellington: Meets Coleman Hawkins/And John Coltrane

If you already have the material, this package might not appeal. But even a passing interest in any of these principal figures, or in the broad range of American music, make this an essential selection.

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Universal/Impulse

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John Paul Keith: The Man That Time Forgot

With its sturdy songs and elegantly loose production, The Man That Time Forgot should find a receptive audience among listeners interested in feeling their way into the greasy edge of contemporary American rock-n-roll.

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Django Reinhardt: The Essential Django Reinhardt

Despite the boldness of the title, there’s other essential Reinhardt to be had elsewhere.

Ben Child
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Big Legal Mess

Music

Thelonious Monk: The Definitive Thelonious Monk on Prestige & Riverside

A fine overview, but given the breadth of the artist's Riverside and Prestige catalogs, it's hard to shake the sense that this collection conceals at least as much as it reveals

Music

Ola Belle Reed: Rising Sun Melodies

Rising Sun Melodies makes a convincing case for Ola Belle Reed as one of the quiet wonders of American vernacular music.

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Ahi-Nama

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Various Artists: The Sound of Siam

Soundway Records has made a name for itself the past few years as a premier outlet for obscure strains of popular music from around the world. The Sound of Siam, the label's first release from the Asian continent, doesn't disappoint.

Music

Charlie Musselwhite: The Well

The Well proves that Musselwhite's command of blues templates and his deeply lived life allow him to merge his own stories with the sounds of the blues masters.

Music

The Holmes Brothers: Feed My Soul

Given Wendell Holmes' recent bout with cancer, Feed My Soul sounds exactly like what it is: dispatches from a true group of soul survivors.

Ben Child
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Alligator Records

Music

Willie Nelson: Country Music

The T Bone Burnett production complex meets Willie Nelson; results are as masterful as expected.

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