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Allison Moorer Mockingbird
New Line Records
Sounds like: She recorded her iPod playlist

Short take: An alt-country history lesson

Underappreciated alt-country singer-songwriter Allison Moorer is hoping her new cover album, Mockingbird, will act as a calling card to new fans. And this is a must-listen, a spectacular mix of old and new. This includes blues queen Ma Rainey's "Daddy, Goodbye Blues," sounding like an old 78 rpm record, while Cat Power's "Where is My Love" imbues optimism and Johnny Cash's "Ring of Fire" confronts self-destructive despair. The cornerstone of the CD is Gillian Welch's "Revelator," with Moorer delivering the perfect blend of passion and grace. John Benson



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Grand Archives Grand Archives
Sub Pop
Sounds like: Great non-U.K. Brit-pop

Short take: Impressive debut

The self-titled debut from Grand Archives will shake up your understanding of Seattle music. The pop-based quartet, which melds layered harmonies and tuneful melodies, throws convention out the window; it transforms quirky whistling ("Miniature Birds"), soft vocals ("Sleepdriving") and flugelhorn magic ("Louis Riel") into its own intoxicating mlange. The raucous "The Crime Window," which possesses all the drunken swagger of an Irish pub anthem, includes crashing cymbals, shiny brass and beer-drenched sing-along lyrics. You get the sense the members of Grand Archives are (thankfully) oblivious to their peers. John Benson



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Sheryl Crow Detours
Interscope
Sounds like: Crow's Lonely Hearts Club

Short take: Flying a familiar path

Sheryl Crow spends the majority of Detours trying to get past her personal bummers. Most notable is her breakup with Lance Armstrong, which comes to a heart-wrenching point on "Diamond Ring." It doesn't get more personal than "Love is All There Is," with Crow lamenting, "Everyone is talking about me." There's also the mid-tempo romp "Gasoline," railing against big industry and the Arlo Guthrie-inspired "God Bless This Mess," which targets Bush and Co. Whether talking about a morning beer buzz or restarting her romantic life, Crow can be counted on for tuneful melodies and Tom Petty-like guitar hits that neither offend nor transcend. John Benson

  • Allison Moorer, Grand Archives, Sheryl Crow

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