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Ray Wylie Hubbard

Grifter's Hymnal

Bordello Records

File next to: Merle Haggard, Terry Allen

Ray Wylie Hubbard's new album dishes up more of his gritty signature Texas country/blues/rock 'n' roll. As always, Hubbard's songs are funny, caustic and insightful — the sliding, bluesy "Lazarus" proclaims "We're weird old America / Grinnin' with sharp teeth / We're beautiful on the surface / Rotten underneath." "New Year's Eve at the Gates of Hell" finds Jim Morrison and FOX News "whores" asking: "Why am I here, when I wasn't that bad / I just didn't like churches, but I never wore plaid." Hubbard's a little philosophical ("Ask God" and "Count My Blessings") and autobiographical, as on the hilarious "Mother Blues," the story of how he got the Les Paul he passed on to his son. His voice is gruff and growly — he admits he really can't sing — but what he says fits perfectly into this scraping, clattering propulsive musical mix. — L. Kent Wolgamott

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Various Artists

Mercyland: Hymns for the Rest of Us

Mercyland Records

File next to: Buddy Miller, Emmylou Harris

Like the rest of us, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Phil Madeira is disturbed by the divisiveness permeating our world. Madeira, a member of Emmylou Harris' Red Dirt Boys, wanted to offer thoughts about finding common ground in faith. But you don't have to be a believer to appreciate the extraordinary result: a stellar collection of talents who convey their messages without preaching. From the exuberance of the Civil Wars' "From This Valley" and the Carolina Chocolate Drops' "Lights in the Valley" to the Louisiana swampiness of Shawn Mullins' "Give God the Blues" and Dan Tyminski's funky "Light of Your Love," each song is a musical revelation. Harris, Buddy Miller, Matt Kearney, Amy Stroup and Cindy Morgan contribute outstanding vocals, as does Madeira on the bluesy title song. The playing is equally heavenly, and John Scofield's instrumental closer makes a fine benediction. — Lynne Margolis

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Little Richard

Here's Little Richard

Concord

File next to: Jerry Lee Lewis, Nick Curran

The declaration "Awop-bop-a-loo-mop Alop-bam-boom" famously kicks off "Tutti Fruitti" — the opening track on this beautifully remastered debut album by the Quasar of Rock, the Originator, the Architect of Rock 'n' Roll, the one-and-only Little Richard — after which, music was never the same. The reissue includes an interview with Specialty Records' Art Rupe, videos of Little Richard movie auditions, and demos he sent to the label that reveal nothing of what was to come when he went into a New Orleans studio with drummer Earl Palmer and sax man Lee Allen. But that blast into the future is captured on "Tutti Frutti," "Ready Teddy," "Long Tall Sally," "Rip It Up," "Jenny Jenny" and "She's Got It" — primal rock 'n' roll powered by pumping piano and wild vocals, a flight of chaos and excitement that hits as hard today as it did 55 years ago. — L. Kent Wolgamott

  • Ray Wylie Hubbard, Mercyland: Hymns for the Rest of Us, Little Richard

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