Sound advice 

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Jack White


Third Man/Columbia

File next to: The Black Keys, Neil Young

Blunderbuss is White Stripes/Raconteurs/Dead Weather musician Jack White's compelling solo debut — a 21st-century roots music compendium that ranges from back-porch acoustic tracks to thunderous blues-rock. Despite the guitar assault of "Sixteen Saltines," Blunderbuss is a largely piano-oriented record, which isn't entirely a shock, since White was moving in that direction at the end of the White Stripes. The title cut has sweeping near-orchestral passages, while cascading piano sets the tone for "Hypocritical Kiss" and adds to the '50s-noir drama of "Weep Themselves to Sleep." There's an intense, primal cover of Little Willie John's "I'm Shakin'," swinging country on "I Guess I Should Go to Sleep," a brushes-on-snare ballad "On and On and On," and the psychedelic pop of "Hip (Eponymous Poor Boy)," a track that brings to mind the Small Faces. Blunderbuss is a gem of a record that gets richer and more rewarding with each listen. — L. Kent Wolgamott

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Todd Snider

Time As We Know It: The Songs of Jerry Jeff Walker

Aimless Records

File next to: Bob Dylan, Loudon Wainwright III

No wonder Todd Snider felt compelled to do a Jerry Jeff Walker tribute. These 14 songs offer crystal-clear proof — albeit through a haze of booze and pot smoke —of how much Snider has been inspired by Walker's work. "Takin' It as It Comes," with Amy LaVere, and "Laying My Life on the Line" could both be Snider's own manifestos. Like most of these tunes, they carry a loose charm and good-time vibe. "Moon Child" is a slightly funky harmonica jam; "Sangria Wine," with Kix Brooks, is an ode to drinking; and "Pissin' in the Wind" sounds like the party's aftermath. But other songs reach directly for your heartstrings, including "Little Bird," with Elizabeth Cook, and "Mr. Bojangles," Walker's most famous composition. By stripping it down to only vocals and acoustic guitar, Snider and producer Don Was let Walker's timeless lyrics — and Snider's appreciation of his hero — shine through. — Lynne Margolis

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Diamond Rugs

Diamond Rugs

Partisan Records

File next to: Deer Tick, the Replacements

As he did last year with his Middle Brother project, Deer Tick's John McCauley has put together another "supergroup" and made a fine, rockin' album. And that's what you'd expect from the lineup of McCauley and Deer Tick bandmate Robbie Crowell, guitarist Ian Saint Pé of the Black Lips, Dead Confederate singer Hardy Morris, Bryan Dufresne of Six Finger Satellite and Los Lobos sax man Steve Berlin — the elder statesman of this motley crew. The band frequently heads into Replacements territory (that's a certainty from McCauley), but it's also got a country flavor and, when Berlin cranks up his horn, some R&B. Song titles like "Gimme a Beer," "Hungover and Horny" and "Call Girl Blues" only tell part of the story. There are some smarts along with the fun on a record the boys clearly had a great time making. Diamond Rugs is already planning a second album, which is good news — as is this irresistible debut. — L. Kent Wolgamott


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