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The Psycho Sisters, Air Dubai, and Hank Williams 

click to enlarge The Psycho Sisters

The Psycho Sisters

Up On the Chair, Beatrice

Rock Beat Records

File next to: Secret Sisters, Kirsty MacColl, Susanna Hoffs

Susan Cowsill of The Cowsills and Vicki Peterson of The Bangles spent the 1990s in an eclectic New Orleans band, Continental Drifters, but would sneak away to perform duo gigs as The Psycho Sisters. Their original songs, like "Timberline" and "Never Never Boys," were never given proper studio treatment at the time. In the course of two decades, Vicki married Susan's brother John, making them literal psycho sisters-in-law. The new project gives the '90s songs a proper polish, as well as several new numbers. Not only do Cowsill and Peterson sound like wayward angels, but the excellent percussion from John Cowsill and Russ Broussard, as well as strings from the Craft Brothers, make this a standout alt-country album. The sisters-in-law would do well to make this their main musical project from now on. — Loring Wirbel

click to enlarge Air Dubai

Air Dubai

Be Calm

Hopeless Records

File next to: Vonnegutt, The Foundations, Bop Skizzum

Colorado fans of Air Dubai no doubt own earlier versions of songs like "Soul & Body" from Air Dubai's numerous EPs, but Be Calm represents the band's first outing in a major studio with a major label. For some artists, that might be a kiss of death, but thankfully, nothing is messed up in the process of hitting the big time. Plenty of 21st-century bands aim for a perfect mix of hip-hop and vintage R&B, but no one gets it quite as right as this Denver band, thanks largely to the dual vocals of Julian Thomas and Jon Shockness. Dia Frampton and Patricia Lynn provide some perfect female-vocalist foils, while unexpected musical layering in tracks like "Hit the Dark" keep the album from becoming repetitious. Forget New York, Atlanta, or LA, look to Denver's own Air Dubai for the best mix of spoken word with '60s-era soul. — Loring Wirbel

click to enlarge Hank Williams

Hank Williams

The Garden Spot Programs, 1950

Omnivore Recordings

File next to: George Jones, Ray Price

Back In 1950, Hank Williams took a band into the same Nashville studio where he cut many of his now-famous songs. There, he recorded a series of 10-minute programs for Naughton Farms, a Texas nursery, who then put them on acetate discs that were sent to hundreds of radio stations around the country. Those shows, called "The Garden Spot," appeared to be lost to history until a record collector happened to stumble on a few of the discs at an Iowa radio station. Against all expectations, the resulting collection captures Williams at the peak of his form, including two versions of "Lovesick Blues," an altogether fun "Mind Your Own Business" and a killer "I Don't Care If Tomorrow Never Comes." The high point of the programs is a chilling "The Mansion on the Hill" that proves equal to any version of the song Williams ever recorded. — L. Kent Wolgamott

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