lawsonALBUM SPOTLIGHT: JERRY LAWSON & TALK OF THE TOWN—Jerry Lawson, one of the great vocalists of our time, left the Persuasions in 2003, after 40 years leading the group, and thought he was walking away for good from a cappella music. Then he met four gents from San Francisco who had their own intriguing a cappella blend, plus a deep love of Persuasions music, and Lawson re-entered the fray. The ensuing blessings are manifold.

lavenderBILLY LAVENDER, Memphis Livin’Whether singing or playing up a storm, in a lead or supporting role, Memphis mainstay Billy Lavender serves up a mighty fine batch of southern soul, R&B, blues and good old-time rock ‘n’ roll on Memphis Livin’, and gets a rousing assist from a redoubtable cast of players who all brought their A games to the fray.

montoyaCOCO MONTOYA, I Want It All Back—Known primarily as a guitarist—on his own and with the likes of John Mayall (he broke into the business as a drummer for Albert Collins)—Coco Montoya comes charging out on I Want It All Back with his axe blazing and his voice on full display. Yes, his voice. Working with the producer tandem of Keb’ Mo and Jeff Paris, Montoya is dealing some blues, some country, some elegant southern R&B and more here, and making it all work.

moreland-arbuckleMORELAND & ARBUCKLE, Flood As difficult as it is to imagine, Kansas’ native sons Dustin Arbuckle and Aaron Moreland have actually topped their stunning 2008 album, 1861, and the timing is right. The duo is now on a label not their own (Telarc, with its attendant distribution and publicity infrastructure) and has a manager that is not themselves (John Hahn, in New York). So it is that when they take a step up the industry business rung they also coalesce like never before as a unit on record. Moreland & Arbuckle are no myth, but are assuming mythological proportions on Flood.

nighthawksTHE NIGHTHAWKS, Last Train To BluesvilleDon’t take the album title too seriously. If history has taught us anything about the Nighthawks, it’s that the band is always coming back to bluesville. The train may be carrying different freight on some trips, but it’s always running, and it’s always right on time.

stubbsMATTHEW STUBBS, Medford & MainGuitar master Matthew Stubbs’s engaging, personable picking makes Medford & Main a standout among many solid instrumental albums released by versatile bluesmen in the past year-plus.

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