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Shemekia Copeland

Never Going Back

Telarc Records

Sounds like: Spellbinding blues breakthrough

Short take: She knows what she's singing about

Bloodlines can be a bitch, either paying off in aces or proving as meaningful as a handful of dust mites. Fortunately, this breakthrough album from Shemekia Copeland, daughter of bluesman Johnny Clyde Copeland, puts her in the lead of great young artists bearing down on the blues. Her voice has the authority of a prison warden's, but with a whole lot more soul. There are several spine-tingling originals by producer Oliver Wood (of the Wood Brothers) and John Hahn that turn the lights on full blast, too, like "Never Going Back to Memphis" and "Born a Penny." With a band that includes the absolute king of inventive lead guitar, Marc Ribot, she also does inspired covers of Joni Mitchell, Percy Mayfield and her own father's "Circumstances." Copeland is clearly endowed with strength and sensitivity, making this one of the best blues releases of the past few years. Bill Bentley


Papa Roach


Geffen / Release date: March 24

Sounds like: Arena rock with a Buckcherry-meets-Tesla vibe

Short take: An appetite for destruction

Papa Roach reportedly hopes Metamorphosis will become its first arena-packing album, an Appetite for Destruction, if you will, to crown its few multi-platinum affairs and a pocket full of radio singles. The band delivers a plethora of fist-in-air rockers that should make 2009 the year Papa Roach kicks it mainstream. Leading the commercially accessible vibe is the infectious lead single "Lifeline," an instant guilty pleasure with tight songwriting and a windows-rolled-down, breezy, summertime feel. The aggro, angry band beats Nickelback at its own game without coming across as schmaltzy dicks. Hits in waiting include the anthemic"Hollywood Whore." There's also the emo-esque "I Almost Told You" and the Tesla-sounding (seriously!) "Carry Me," which confirms Papa Roach is born again. John Benson


Justin Townes Earle

Midnight at the Movies

Bloodshot Records

Sounds like: Deep grooves, deeper emotions

Short take: Steve's son steps farther out of the shadows

These days, it's not easy being a young musician, especially if, like Justin Townes Earle, your past includes drug addiction and other troubles. But Earle's second album is a captivating glimpse of someone at the crossroads of greatness. The opening title song jumps in the car to ride shotgun with Tom Waits, while announcing a striking new presence. Country and folk influences soon hop in but never overtake Earle's individualism. There's even a rocking bluegrass version of the Replacements' quintessential "Can't Hardly Wait," which turns up the original's twitches a few extra notches. It's hard to improve on perfection, but always a kick when someone takes a favorite down a different road. No need to mention his father is Steve Earle on Midnight at the Movies, Justin Townes Earle has made his own name. Bill Bentley

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