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Don Edwards

Heaven on Horseback

Western Jubilee Recording Co. / Release date: Jan. 20

Sounds like: Salvation in the saddle

Short take: Edwards evokes American West's spiritual side

Any artist with the balls to do a Marty Robbins tribute album and not include "Streets of Laredo" is OK in my book. Robbins' haunting "Master's Call" opens this masterful collection of gospel tunes from our greatest cowboy musicologist. Edwards' singing and strumming are equally moving on "Wayfaring Stranger" and Hank Williams' "I Saw the Light," while the wartime-themed "Strange Things Happening in the Land" sounds as powerful today "You know that God can't lie / He declared that man must die," croons Edwards in his sublimely measured tones as it must have when Blind Joe Taggart sang it in the '30s. That Edwards can record and release music like this underscores the importance of Colorado Springs' own Western Jubilee label. Probably the best album of its kind since John Fogerty's classic Blue Ridge Rangers project. Bill Forman


Herbie Hancock

Then and Now: The Definitive Herbie Hancock

Verve Records

Sounds like: Five decades of jazz and pop genius

Short take: Miles Davis sideman makes good

Jazz keyboardist Herbie Hancock started near the top and kept climbing. The child prodigy's first hit, "Watermelon Man," showcased him taking improvisations to their outer limits. This career-spanning collection ranges from 1965's Maiden Voyage, backed by the Miles Davis band, through such surprises as Stevie Wonder on W.C. Handy's "St.Louis Blues," Bobby McFerrin's wordless performance on "Chan's Song (Never Said)," Corinne Bailey Rae's collaboration on Joni Mitchell's "River," and a duet with John Scofield's electric sitar on Kurt Cobain's "All Apologies." But the furthest left-field wonder may be "Don't Explain," with vocalists Damien Rice and Lisa Hannigan. Co-written by Billie Holiday, the aching ballad captures Hancock's ability to accompany vocalists like he's living inside them. Pianos often speak the language of love, and no one is more fluent than Hancock. Bill Bentley


Michael Chapman

Time Past & Time Passing

Electric Ragtime Records

Sounds like: A folk legend crossing genres and generations

Short take: Touchstone from Yorkshire's finest

After the British invasion, folk guitarists could do no wrong: They had centuries of sounds to play with, plus an acid-fixated culture that found no style too esoteric. Many don't recognize Yorkshire's Michael Chapman, yet he's one of the great guitarists from the motherland in the past 50 years. These 11 songs are a peek into a legend's mind. From the exquisite "Ponchatoulah" to the fiery "Fahey's Flag," it's like we've crossed continents and looked into the abyss under the guidance of someone who's been there and knows his way around. What's more, Chapman's vocals bring a whole new appreciation of his abilities. As the liner notes point out, "The race belongs not just to the quick and the strong, but to those who keep on running." Michael Chapman is a marathon man playing in his prime. Listen and learn. Bill Bentley

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