Dead Oceans Inc.
File next to: Blitzen Trapper, Son Volt
Califone was spawned from the late '90s wave that brought the world strange country-rock acts like My Morning Jacket. Where MMJ's Jim James and others have moved on to fuller sounds, Califone founder Tim Rutili has instead opted for stripped-down steel and slide guitars on the band's long-awaited successor to 2009's All My Friends Are Funeral Singers. This should fit well with Califone's house-concert tour of the U.S., which makes its way to Colorado Springs on Oct. 2. Don't expect a full album of living-room specials, though — the horns are in full effect on tracks like "Magdalene." Does Califone want to emulate The Band circa Dylan's Basement Tapes days, or add a touch of Calexico on the side? Either way, Califone's sound has become both more polished, more immediate, and more gripping in the last few years, making Stitches something of a milestone. — Loring Wirbel
North Mississippi Allstars
World Boogie Is Coming
Songs of the South Records
File next to: R.L. Burnside, Gov't Mule
On World Boogie is Coming, Luther and Cody Dickinson solidify the regional blues that gives the North Mississippi Allstars their name while blasting the genre into new and captivating territory. They do so by bringing together Hill Country bluesman R. L. Burnside's sons Duwayne and Garry, Otha Turner's granddaughter Shardé Thomas, and friends like Alvin Youngblood Hart, Lightnin' Malcolm and Chris Chew. Even Robert Plant kicks in with some harmonica. The fresh groove is first revealed on a driving, wah-wah guitar-meets-field shout take on "Rollin 'n Tumblin," followed by a raw John-Lee-Hooker-style "Boogie." The Hill Country fife and snare drum turns up on both slide-guitar instrumental "Shimmy" and the cover of "My Babe," while a driving rock 'n' roll groove graces "Turn Up Satan." Cody, who plays drums and plans to use the music from World Boogie Is Coming in his films, has done a masterful job producing the album. Meanwhile, guitarist Luther has never played or sung better, establishing World Boogie is Coming as the AllStars' best record yet. — L. Kent Wolgamott