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Jimmie Vaughan

Plays Blues, Ballads & Favorites

Shout Factory!

Buy if you like: Louis Jordan, Louis Prima

Guitarist Jimmie Vaughan seems most at home in the jump-blues era, when big-finned land yachts, slicked-back hair and honkin' saxes ruled. He fills this album with hefty nuggets from that period, like "(She's Got the) Blues for Sale," "RM Blues" and "The Pleasure's All Mine," while giving others, like "I'm Leavin' It Up to You," full horn treatments as well. Unfortunately, Vaughan also relies on old pal Lou Ann Barton for vocal support; her limited-range and almost atonal sound drag down cuts like "Come Love." The Barton-free tunes fare better, and Vaughan's instrumental original, "Comin' & Goin'," is quite tasty. But the late Bill Willis' singing and virtuosic B3 solo on a cover of Willie Nelson's "Funny How Time Slips Away" becomes the defining moment of this disc — as well as its salvation. If only Willis had handled the rest of the vocals, we'd really have something jumpin'. — Lynne Margolis

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The Like

Release Me

Downtown

Buy if you like: The Bangles, the Ronettes

The music world can always use a great all-girl power pop band, and Mark Ronson's latest find appears ready to fill the void. Although the L.A. band has been around since 2001, Release Me is only their second full-length album. And the acclaimed Amy Winehouse producer makes the most of it, bringing out a cool retro feel that's way more Ronettes than Go-Gos. "Walk of Shame" and "He's Not a Boy" are bouncy uber-catchy numbers packed with made-for-summer melodies. And even when the group slows things down a bit — as on "Narcissus in a Red Dress" — it only serves to provide a welcome ebb and flow. In fact, there's not a single throwaway track in this 12-song collection. The Like may not be the most original band around, but they should have no problem winning over retro, garage pop and new wave fans everywhere. — Alan Sculley

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Paul Thorn

Pimps and Preachers

Perpetual Obscurity

Buy if you like: JJ Grey, Fred Eaglesmith

Paul Thorn has a knack for writing from the raw underbelly of America, places that both fascinate and repulse those who don't dwell there. At the same time, he somehow manages to turn his observations and stories (including the title tune) into universal truths — most clearly on "You're Not the Only One" ("When you sing this song, insert your name / The problems we have are all the same"). Every track contains some well-phrased bit of wisdom, from "Tequila Is Good for the Heart" and "Better Days Ahead" to "You Might Be Wrong" and "I Hope I'm Doin' This Right." There's the funky "Buckskin Jones," the lovely "Walk a Mile in Rayann's Shoes" and the irrepressible "I Don't Like Half the Folks I Love," all worthy sentiments. Finish it off with the bluesy, bittersweet "That's Life," and you've got a collection of fine songs that always hit just the right note. — Lynne Margolis

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