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Black Vinyl Records

File next to: Cheap Trick, Material Issue

Power-popsters Shoes have their first album in 18 years, another gem of the genre. An altogether pleasing mix of crunchy guitars, pop hooks, harmonies and the big beat, the 15 songs sound as if they could have come off any Shoes record — and that's a very good thing. Brothers Jeff and John Murphy and Gary Klebe, the core Shoes trio, have been making records since the '70s and have their sound down, swapping lead vocals, blending sweetly together, and capturing gorgeous melodies, as on "Sign of Life," and the sadly romantic "I Thought You Knew." There are a couple surprises on Ignition. Shoes rocks out, Stones-style, on "Hot Mess" and ends with a piano ballad. Most of the album, though, is fine Beatles-rooted songs that befit the age of the band. Power pop has rarely been chart-topping. But nobody does it better than Shoes. — L. Kent Wolgamott




101 Distribution

File next to: Sara Watkins, Kate Bush

Sarah, Hannah, Eva and Liza Holbrook were all born within five years. Beyond their sister-tight harmonies, they've grown up sharing musical sensibilities, giving the Fort Collins foursome's finely honed skills an extra edge and a unique sound. Erroneously labeled pop-folk, their songs more resemble conceptual art than sing-along confections. They're classically trained musicians who create sonic landscapes of violin, piano, mandolin, cello, percussion and voice. You won't notice the absence of guitar in these tunes, some of which ("The Wise Old Owl," "The Latest and Greatest Blueberry Rubberband") reach that fairies-floating-in-heaven soprano range. The only cover, Led Zeppelin's "The Battle of Evermore," is elegant. As "Evermore" and clever "Vinyl Memories" indicate, they've been well-trained in classic — as well as classical — music. — Lynne Margolis


James Luther Dickinson &North Mississippi Allstars

I'm Just Dead I'm Not Gone

Memphis International

File next to: Dan Penn, Joan Osborne

Jim Dickinson, who played piano on the Rolling Stones' "Wild Horses" and produced Big Star and the Replacements, died in 2009 but left behind an unforgettable line: "I will not be gone as long as the music lingers." It lives on this 2006 live set, with Dickinson on keyboards backed by the North Mississippi Allstars, featuring his sons Luther on guitar and Cody on drums. It starts with a prayer — Dickinson could've been a Southern preacher — and continues with Sleepy John Estes' blues "Ax Sweet Mama" and a killer raw take on Buffy Sainte-Marie's "Codine" that ends with a typical quip: "Thank you fans of drug addiction." There's also country ("Red Neck, Blue Collar"), rock 'n roll ("Rooster Blues"), and an Elvis cover ("Truck Drivin' Man"), all delivered with irresistible charisma that will not soon be forgotten. — L. Kent Wolgamott

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