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Tommy Stinson

One Man Mutiny

Done to Death Music

Buy if you like: The Replacements, Rolling Stones

Tommy Stinson is best known as bassist for Guns N' Roses and the Replacements, but his solo albums have shown him to be a good songwriter. Here he broadens his range of styles, though not always with complete success. Rough-hewn, mid-tempo rock tunes like "Destroy Me" and "All This Way for Nothing" mix Americana and Beatles-esque pop, but mostly acoustic ballads like the title track and "Come to Hide" could use more compelling vocal melodies. Stinson's at his best with well-crafted rock 'n roll in the tradition of the Replacements: "It's a Drag," "Meant to Be" and "Don't Deserve You" will bring back memories of that band. It's no second coming of the Replacements — and isn't meant to be — but this should still give fans of the irreverent indie-rock pioneers something to smile about. — Alan Sculley

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Kenny Vaughan

V

Sugar Hill

Buy if you like: Marty Stuart & his Fabulous Superlatives, Buck Owens

If anybody knows how to deliver classic country, it's Kenny Vaughan, one of Nashville's three or four top axe-slingers. Whether he's chicken-pickin' on "Hot Like That" (with Chris Scruggs on steel guitar), or backing Marty Stuart in the Fabulous Superlatives, Vaughan nails it. The Bakersfield twang of his instrumental "Wagon Ride" and the spaghetti-Western soundtrack-influenced "Minuit Sur La Plage" and "Mysterium" (dig that tremolo) are as charming as his vocal offerings. Whether he's singing honky-tonkers like "Stay Outta My Dreams" (a Stuart co-penned Buck Owens tribute) or picking pretty melodies, he exudes effortless cool, another facet of his Buddy Holly-in-rhinestones look and persona. Though Vaughan took a long time getting around to recording his own album, it's worth the wait. — Lynne Margolis

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Tom Russell

Mesabi

Shout! Factory

Buy if you like: Bob Dylan, Calexico

For his 26th album, Tom Russell created a sweeping, cinematic cycle chronicling celluloid heroes and other "fullbacks and folksingers, matadors, troubadours and hard-running thoroughbreds" of childhood fantasies and adult desires. But these are heartbreaking tales of legends who flamed out too soon or faded away: James Dean (the Guthrie-esque "In a Land Called 'Way Out There'") and Liz Taylor ("Furious Love"). In "Farewell Never Never Land," he relates a harsh awakening to a screwed-up world, complete with a Tinkerbell-like piano fadeout. Russell and Lucinda Williams turn "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall," into a powerful dirge. Van Dyke Parks, Calexico, Will Kimbrough, Joel Guzman, Augie Meyers and the McCrary Sisters, among others, provide vivid accompaniment, making his haunting visitations of big stars and border towns more compelling. — Lynne Margolis

  • Tommy Stinson, Kenny Vaughan, Tom Russell

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