Debbie Davies, Blues Blast (Telarc). Having honed her chops behind stalwarts Albert Collins and John Mayall, Debbie Davies knows how to come out swinging. On Blues Blast, she scores a knockout thanks to her icy-cool attack and the help of Tab Benoit, Charlie Musselwhite and Coco Montoya. If you thought the blues were dead, think again. — Nick Hutchinson
Lisa Hilton, The New York Sessions (Ruby Slipper). Although pianist Lisa Hilton has jazz heavies Christian McBride and Lewis Nash backing her up on her ninth album, her chops are pretty damn stilted throughout, especially on both versions of Joni Mitchell's "Both Sides Now." Duke Ellington said it best: "It don't mean a thing if ain't got that swing." And, well, Hilton just ain't swinging here. — Jon Solomon
The Pipettes, We Are the Pipettes (Cherrytree/Interscope Records). Why are the hype merchants working overtime on a disc that sounds like Bananarama covering the Hairspray soundtrack? Because as gimmicks go, the CD's girl-power-meets-girl-groups vibe is pretty appealing, and the members of this exclamation-pointed trio (RiotBecki! Gwenno! Rosay!) charm in small doses. Album two will be redundant, but album one is a pip. — Roberts
Portugal. the Man, Church Mouth (Fearless Records). One sure way to escape the desolate confines of the Alaskan landscape is to form a band and tour the world. With Church Mouth, this trio of Alaskans takes a sharp turn away from the electronic beats of their last album in favor of a more relaxed, organic sound.— Brandon Daviet
Robert Plant and Alison Krauss, Raising Sand (Rounder). A collaboration between the original rawk yowler and bluegrass's foremost Grammy magnet seems like the opposite of promising. But no: The disc is pleasurable from stem to stern, thanks to unexpectedly low-key performances, smart song choices (Tom Waits, Townes Van Zandt and Gene Clark are among those represented) and T Bone Burnett's eminently tasteful production. Suckfest averted, and how. — Roberts
The Sounds of Animals Fighting, Tiger & the Duke (Equal Vision). Oddly, a band that has only played live once and thrives on anonymity has re-released an album that's only been out of print for a year. This overly ambitious slab of progressive rock is eerily similar to the works of Peter Gabriel-era Genesis, but without the heavy social convictions. — Daviet
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