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The Flatlanders

The Odessa Tapes

New West

File next to: Avett Brothers, Son Volt

Apparently, a closet shelf in Lubbock, Texas, is better than a humidity-controlled vault for long-term storage of audio tape. That's what the Flatlanders discovered when their first demos, recorded in 1972, were unearthed after decades. In fact, these 14 tracks, including four the band never redid, sound so good that releasing them 40 years later was a no-brainer. Reedy-voiced Jimmie Dale Gilmore, who was then being groomed for country stardom, sings lead throughout, but bandmates Joe Ely and Butch Hancock lend high harmonies, harmonica and other nice touches to cuts like "I Know You," "Shadow of the Moon," "I Think Too Much of You" and the now-iconic "Dallas." The music has held up as well as its medium: These songs, though spare, share an intimacy and purity that beautifully convey the genesis of this now-legendary band, as well as the Americana genre they helped to create. — Lynne Margolis The Fresh & Onlys


The Fresh & Onlys

Long Slow Dance

Mexican Summer

File next to: The Cure, Echo & the Bunnymen

Although this is the fourth Fresh & Onlys album in four years, the quality of the San Francisco-based band's output hasn't suffered from the pace of writing and recording. The F&O sound has some of the gauzy melancholy of the Jesus and Mary Chain and other British shoegazer bands, but with less noise and more overall energy. "Euphoria" effectively mixes garage-y rock and '80s-style synthesizers, there's a touch of the Cure in the perky yet sad tones of "Presence of Mind," and "Dream Girls" suggests the Byrds on a bit of a bummer. Tim Cohen's sweetly plaintive vocal on the jangly acoustic title tune is also a highlight. The songwriting is solid throughout, with nearly every song built around inviting pop melodies. Long Slow Dance is another gem from a prolific band that continues to make its vintage influences sound surprisingly fresh. — Alan Sculley


Magic Slim & the Teardrops

Bad Boy

Blind Pig Records

File next to: Muddy Waters, J.B. Lenoir

Morris "Magic Slim" Holt turned 75 last month and celebrates with another solid set of Chicago blues, titled, somewhat ironically, Bad Boy. Recorded with the latest version of his longtime band, the Teardrops, Slim rambles and roars through perfectly selected covers by the likes of J.B. Lenoir, Lil' Ed Williams and McKinley Morganfield (aka Muddy Waters), the latter a rousing version of his "Champagne and Reefer." There's also a handful of Slim originals ("Gambling Blues" and "Country Joyride" really connect) on an album that conveys a range of Chicago- and Delta-rooted styles with a raw authenticity — which is just what he has delivered for decades. Along with Buddy Guy, Slim is among the last great Chicago bluesmen and he's in good form across Bad Boy, his guitar stinging and voice growling throughout. So happy birthday Slim and thanks for the present. — L. Kent Wolgamott

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