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Redd Kross

Researching the Blues

Merge

File next to: Jellyfish, Apples In Stereo

Redd Kross returns from a 15-year layoff with an irresistible album full of crunching guitars, earworm hooks and irrepressible pop melodies. The brothers McDonald — singer/songwriter Jeff and producer Steven — have crafted a giant sonic leap forward from the Los Angeles band's spare late-'80s/early-'90s efforts. The songs still reflect the Redd Kross combination of '60s bubblegum and punk, a mash-up that leads to some tasty rock 'n roll. Some of Researching the Blues is pure power pop — including "Stay Away From Downtown," the jangly "Dracula's Daughter," "Meet Frankenstein" and "Winter Blues" — but there are also more snarly songs like "Uglier," and others like "One of the Good Ones" that go bouncing back into the '60s. All 10 songs clock in at just over a half-hour, which is just how rock 'n roll should be — three-minute blasts of ear-pleasing fun. — L. Kent Wolgamott

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Radney Foster

Del Rio, Texas Revisited: Unplugged& Lonesome

Devil's River Records

File next to: Dwight Yoakam, George Jones

Del Rio, Texas 1959 was Radney Foster's career-maker, a 1992 debut influential enough for Darius Rucker to say he'd love to cover the whole thing. But Foster's old label refused to reissue the original, so the singer-songwriter finally re-recorded it himself. This time, he went acoustic and brought in some of his favorite Texas artists, including fiddling Dixie Chick Martie Maguire, to join him in live studio sessions. With the Nashville sheen removed, there's even more emphasis on the universality of each heartbreak Foster conveys ("I can't make 'I love you' mean what it used to / it's easier said than done"), while the hook-laden melodies and richly textured vocals on tracks like the Kim Richey co-written "Nobody Wins" and the Bakersfield-meets-Texas charmer "Just Call Me Lonesome" make this 20-year-update a classic in its own right. — Lynne Margolis

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The Reverend Peyton's Big Damn Band

Between the Ditches

SideOneDummy Records

File next to: Charlie Patton, North Mississippi Allstars

Singer, guitarist and Rev. Josh Peyton — with wife and washboard player Breezy as well as drummer Aaron "Cuz" Persinger — conjures up some serious country blues on Between the Ditches. The album, more produced than the Big Damn Band's other records, opens with the dark drive of "Devils Look Like Angels," catches a slide guitar groove on "Something for Nothing," lays back on the tough-times tales of "We'll Get Through." Peyton sings about hunger and cold on "Don't Grind It Down" and our culture of greed on "Shake 'Em Off Like Fleas." He watches a crack user's teeth turn black on "The Money Goes," rumbles down the road in a "Big Blue Chevy '72" and details a band's woes on "Brokedown Everywhere." At 14 songs, Between the Ditches may be a little too long, but it's also, by far, the best record yet from Peyton and company. — L. Kent Wolgamott

  • Redd Kross, Radney Foster, The Reverend Peyton's Big Damn Band

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