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Bob Dylan

Tell Tale Signs

Columbia Records

Sounds like: Creativity personified

Short take: Rarities from a rebirth

Subtitled The Bootleg Series Vol. 8, Rare and Unreleased 1989-2006, the songs on Tell Tale Signs offer a window into the soul of the greatest musical artist of our lifetime. Year after year, Bob Dylan continues the onward push of creativity. Not everything he writes or records hits his highest mark, but the 27 songs on this two-disc set are mind-blowing, because of how in the moment Dylan is. He still can turn everything on its head. It also doesn't hurt that all these unreleased versions, live recordings and soundtrack songs date from an artistic rebirth on 1989's Oh Mercy. It was there, with producer Daniel Lanois in New Orleans studios, that Dylan started working with one of the best bands of his long career. Getting a peek into his footlocker of delights is about as close as we're going to get to understanding the man behind the music, which is just as it should be. Bill Bentley


The Mint Chicks

Crazy? Yes! Dumb? No!

Milan Records

Sounds like: A more melodic, less annoying Devo

Short take: Eccentrics play power pop

Does the world really need a band that echoes Split Enz ("Walking off a Cliff Again"), the Buzzcocks ("You're Just as Confused as I Am") and Devo ("This Is Your Last Chance to be Famous My Love")? The Mint Chicks apparently think so. And given that the songs listed above nearly equal or, in the case of Devo, actually surpass those of the earlier bands, listeners likely will agree. More than half of the 14 tracks on this New Zealand band's second full-length album clock in at less than three minutes, which makes the closing "100 Minutes of Silence," a six-minute instrumental that progresses from grand piano to electronic noise, something of an anomaly. The Mint Chicks' music may be a bit too clever and angular to capture mainstream adoration, but fans of the previously named bands should find this album an enticing example of contemporary devolution. Bill Forman


Kasey Chambers & Shane Nicholson

Rattlin' Bones

Sugar Hill Records

Sounds like: Country Down Under

Short take: Family affair hits an alluring chord

Traditional country needs a dose of magic to stay alive. It's hard to take a style that's been around this long and keep it contemporary. Maybe that's why Rattlin' Bones is so shocking. An aura of freshness seeps from every song, and hearing Australians Kasey Chambers and husband Shane Nicholson together is to discover a duo for the ages. Their approach mixes sunshine and darkness, suggesting they've done some hard traveling to reach that place where love still lives. Chambers' voice cuts through with a sharpness few possess, while Nicholson gives their blend a deep soulfulness underneath. It's truly a family affair: Chambers' father plays in the band, and her brother co-produced the album with Nicholson. Certain albums connect the past with the future, and in that precious place make the present more exciting. Rattlin' Bones shows how it's done. Bill Bentley

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