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Kevin Gordon


Crowville Media

Buy if you like: Steve Earle, David Baerwald

Nashville's Kevin Gordon has released five albums since 1994, and all are worth hearing. The centerpiece here is the 10½-minute "Colfax/Step in Time," a vivid portrait of Gordon's days in seventh-grade band. A chilling and ultimately triumphant look at race relations, it's set to a tense, bluesy melody that builds to a gospel-accented finale. On "Black Dog," "Don't Stop Me This Time" and the title track, Gordon hits the stylistic sweet spot, a simmering blend of rock, blues and country marked by stinging electric guitar and a vocal intensity with a sneaky potency. He's also effective on a couple of warmer tunes, the country-accented "Pecolia's Star" and the luminously soulful "Trying to Get to Memphis." An ambitious work, Gloryland may take a couple listens to reveal its full strength, but what emerges is a richly rewarding album from one of the best songwriters of our day. — Alan Sculley



Young & Old

Fat Possum

Buy if you like: Best Coast, Cults

When Denver's Patrick Riley and Alaina Moore recorded the songs of Cape Dory, they didn't intend for them to be heard by anyone outside their small circle of friends. But the married couple's very personal account of six months on a sailboat went on to become one of the biggest buzzes of 2011. Now, their band Tennis is back with Young & Old, an album that actually was designed to be heard by a larger audience, which means the songs are less directly personal and more reflective of universal experiences. Musically, this album adds some old school soul to their mix of poppy garage rock, girl group and surf influences. "Origins" features Motown-style bass and backing vocals, while "Petition" is built around spacious drums, rich voices and lush guitars. Young & Old won't catch the buzz of Cape Dory, but it's equally satisfying and musically more accomplished. — L. Kent Wolgamott


The Dunwells

Blind Sighted Faith

Playing In Traffic

Buy if you like: The Eagles, Poco

England may not be considered a hotbed of Americana, but this U.S. debut from the British quintet is proof that you don't have to live in the Southern U.S. to make music that sounds indigenous to the region. The band also has a talent for frisky rootsy rock, as both the title track and "Hand That Feeds" demonstrate. But some of the most striking moments here have a distinctly country accent. "Follow the Road," "I Could Be a King," "Only Me" and other primarily acoustic tunes combine strong melodies with tight vocal harmonies that bring to mind the likes of Crosby, Stills & Nash as well as early Eagles. Mercifully, the music goes easy on the twang thing, and doesn't get bogged down in references to drinking, pickup trucks, or patriotic platitudes. In that regard, this is country done right — or, maybe I should say, done well. — Alan Sculley

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