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Buy if you like: The Ronettes, Britney Spears

After Amy Winehouse became a retro-soul sensation, Duffy (her first name is Aimee) was hyped as the next big thing. In the U.K., her Rockferry debut was 2008's best-selling album. To follow up, Duffy teams with co-writer and producer Albert Hammond (who's helped pen hits for Starship, Julio Iglesias, Whitney Houston and Tina Turner) and moves away from intoxicating soulfulness toward a frothier pop sound. Arrangements are frequently heavy-handed, with several songs bathed in synthetic production values that push Duffy perilously close to dance-pop territory ("Well, Well, Well" and "Lovestruck"). On the plus side, "Don't Forsake Me" comes close to Rockferry's more organic sound, while "Breath Away," "Endlessly" and "My Boy" are all pretty charming. While Endlessly isn't a total loss, it fails to match Rockferry on nearly every level. — Alan Sculley



All American Nightmare


Buy if you like: Mötley Crüe, Guns N' Roses

This third album from Oklahoma hard rockers Hinder is unquestionably formulaic: acoustic guitar and piano ballads strategically scattered among swaggering electric rock assaults, all sounding like they could have come out 30 years ago. Hinder cranks up on the album's title cut, a pounding bit of bad-boy braggadocio punctuated by squealing guitar. Fact is, Hinder throws together Guns N' Roses, Mötley Crüe and Aerosmith better than any other band around. Frontman Austin Winkler hoists his rock flag high with lines like "Take your Kanye out of my player please" and "You're a wannabe stripper at the microphone ... you're a waste of three minutes and a dance routine ... you're the reason there's no music on MTV." But when it comes to paying tribute to the Stones, Led Zeppelin and other heroes, these Okies are having a blast. — L. Kent Wolgamott


Kevin Fowler

Best of ... So Far

Kevin Fowler Records

Buy if you like: Pat Green, Kenny Chesney

There's a genre known in Kevin Fowler's home state as Texas frat-boy country, and on Best of ... So Far, he shows how well he's learned what so many spend their college years studying: drinkin' and hell-raisin'. Titles range from "Loose, Loud and Crazy," "Beer, Bait and Ammo" and "Beer Season" to "The Lord Loves the Drinkin' Man" and "Ain't Drinkin' Anymore." Just to reinforce his redneck cred, there's "100% Texan." Fowler executes them well and with humor, along with such charmers as the western swinger "Butterbean," the Texas Tornados-influenced "Senorita Mas Fina," the tender "Best Mistake I Ever Made" and "Not Lovin' Anymore." He wraps the 18-track disc with the double-entendre-filled "Don't Touch My Willie," an ode to the king of Texas partying. Fowler's fun-loving fans will, no doubt, think it's a perfect finish. — Lynne Margolis

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