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Bob Dylan, Jessica Pratt, and George Ezra 

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click to enlarge Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan

Shadows in the Night

Columbia

File next to: Tony Bennett, Mark Lanegan

There are two good reasons to be skeptical of Bob Dylan covering Frank Sinatra standards: First, Dylan's voice hasn't shown much range or timbre for years. Also, by the time Dylan burst on the national scene in 1961, Sinatra was a Mafia-linked parody of his former crooning self. But Shadows in the Night's covers of Old Blue Eyes' particularly tragic gems actually work. Dylan's voice is more melodic than it's been in years — perhaps melodic in an elderly sense, but still better at singing standards than, say, that of a modern Bryan Ferry. At times, the experiment works well, as in "Autumn Leaves" or "What'll I Do?" Other standards come off flat, though rarely horrendous. The real question is whether these songs are worth the curating effort, and only the opinion of the individual listener suffices to answer that. — Loring Wirbel

click to enlarge Jessica Pratt

Jessica Pratt

On Your Own Love Again

Drag City

File next to: Judee Sill, Diane Cluck

Jessica Pratt dwells somewhere outside place and time. She is American-born, yet sports a deep accent that sounds Scottish or Newcastle-centered. Her simple folk recalls Southern California hippie eras, but is electronically manipulated in unexpected ways. Pratt's second album, On Your Own Love Again, is more properly an EP, coming in at 28 minutes, yet contains a wealth of ideas in eight tracks. It's crafted as a confessional suite, recorded in random apartments around the Bay Area. While Pratt is occasionally critiqued for relying heavily on personal disclosure, that only spotlights her similarities to artists like Sandy Denny and Marianne Faithfull. Pratt could evolve into a songwriter just that important, or blaze and vanish like the early '70s mystery folkie Judee Sill. In either case, it's worth hearing her at this early stage of development. — Loring Wirbel

click to enlarge George Ezra

George Ezra

Wanted on Voyage

Columbia

File next to: Vance Joy, Willy Mason

George Ezra's Wanted on Voyage hit No. 1 in England late last year, thanks in large part to its irresistible sing-songy hit "Budapest." The soulful 21-year-old's debut album showcases the folk-pop artist's big, versatile voice, which can shift from a falsetto to a croon. He comes off something like fellow Brit Jake Bugg on the acoustic-driven "Blame It On Me," but adds a touch more blues and gospel to the mix on the a cappella intro to "Did You Hear the Rain?" and the darkly clattering "Spectacular Rival," in which Ezra sounds far older than his years. Wanted on Voyage follows in the timeless pop tradition of songs about wanting to get back together versus post-breakup biting dismissal. In the wake of Sam Smith's success, Ezra's Wanted on Voyage could make him England's newest hit-maker over here. — L. Kent Wolgamott

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