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Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit and Pam Tillis with the new and noteworthy 

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Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit, Reunions (Southeastern/Thirty Tigers) – All Jason Isbell had to do to retain his reputation as a top-notch songwriter was tread water. Instead, he makes another grand leap forward in his seventh studio album, spotlighting his wife Amanda Shires in songs like “River,” while offering a riff-heavy touring favorite in “Be Afraid.” Isbell made a show of offering “Dreamsicle”-colored vinyl at an early date to independent record stores, and the reference is made plain in the song “Dreamsicle,” a powerful ode to childhood and family.
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Pam Tillis
, Looking for a Feeling (Stellar Cat Records) – It’s challenging for an established country singer to be heard in the “new Nashville” of Margo Price and Kacey Musgraves, but Tillis has brought heavy artillery to her 11th studio album. She relies on three separate session bands for a dozen impressive tracks, including a harmony-rich “Better Friends” with hints of Motown. Her tribute to Dolly Parton has gotten the most attention, but it’s Tillis’ songs addressing her own experience, like “My Kind of Medicine,” that offer the most rewards. Her voice has never sounded as dedicated and rich.

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