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Nick Drake, Family Tree (Tsunami Label Group/Fontana). This unusual, understated collection adds immeasurably to our knowledge of a tragic yet little-understood figure. Culled from homemade recordings, the disc captures the late Drake tentatively rendering folk and blues covers and early originals with help from his kin. There are even two fascinatingly morose songs by his mother, Molly. Clearly, the roots of this Tree run deep. — Roberts

Hayseed Dixie, Weapons of Grass Destruction, (Cooking Vinyl). What made Dixie's tributes to AC/DC and Kiss so enjoyable was Barley Scotch's old-coot persona. While the mad Appalachian arrangements are still burning down the barn, Scotch has gone nu-grass on Weapons. Less Haggard and more Urban this time around, Scotch and company take on the Sex Pistols, the Beatles and Scissor Sisters. — Skidmore

The Lovetones, Axiom (Tee Pee Records). Part of Axiom was cut at the Sydney Opera House's recording studio, and that's appropriate, since the richness of "Wintertime in Hollywood," "Pieces of Me" and so on suggests the rock equivalent of a chamber orchestra. When it comes to making the potentially trite seem profound, singer-songwriter Matt Tow is maestro of his domain. — Roberts


Mini reviews

The Nightwatchman, One Man Revolution (Sony). On Revolution, Audioslave's Tom Morello whispers against the machine with some Red Guard leftist folk. Armed with an acoustic and the angry, indicting delivery of Leonard Cohen, Morello espouses pro-Castro party lines and poetic Billy Bragg-ish lyrics. Here his exercise in free speech includes incendiary support of South American guerrillas in a well-crafted manifesto worthy of Woody Guthrie. — Skidmore

The Noisettes, What's the Time Mr. Wolf (Universal). The Noisettes fuse improvisational feel with intuitive dynamics, pushing the power-trio envelope in a way unheard of since Cream ruled the earth — sort of like the White Stripes with a bass player and killer vocalist. Despite a couple of blistering tracks, however, the lack of inspired writing suggests the act may be all chops. — Mark Bliesener

Wilco, Sky Blue Sky (Nonesuch). There are moments on the new Wilco album when Jeff Tweedy sounds like he's Jerry Garcia. These moments suck. Fortunately, they're few and far between. The rest of the album is filled with simple, melodic AM Gold-style beauties served with a touch of Loose Fur noodling. The result is the most upbeat and user-friendly Wilco disc in years. — Adam Cayton-Holland


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