Rhiannon Giddens, “Tomorrow Is My Turn” (Nonesuch): A tour de force by the lead singer of the Carolina Chocolate Drops in her solo debut. She can sing anything from Southern blues to Celtic folk and French cabaret with equal aplomb, and is shaping up as a first-rate songwriter as well.
Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats, “Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats” (Concord): A welcome jolt of bracing soul and R&B from the Denver-based singer and songwriter, who delivers a riveting performance that’s both of-the-moment fresh and true to its ‘60s-rooted sources of inspiration.
Tom Jones, “Long Lost Suitcase” (S-Curve): The third entry in the 75-year-old Welsh singer’s trilogy of career-redefining albums with English producer Ethan Johns. He can still shake the rafters, and melt the heart, with that mighty voice.
Chris Stapleton, “Traveller” (Mercury Nashville): Stapleton’s trenchant pen combines with his soul-drenched rasp of a voice for a moving exploration of the panoply of emotions in the human experience.
The Mavericks, “Mono” (Valory Music): As unbridled and joyful a session to come out of a recording studio since, well, the Nashville-based boundary-bending band’s last one, 2013’s “In Time.” This is why human beings make music.
Dave Alvin & Phil Alvin, “Lost Time” (Yep Roc): Downey’s sibling favorite-sons follow their earthy Grammy-nominated 2014 salute to blues man Big Bill Broonzy with a wider-reaching exploration and celebration of the roots music that influenced them growing up in Southern California. It’s an inspired set, running a gamut from Oscar Brown Jr.'s haunting cautionary tale against excess titled “Mister Kicks” to James Brown’s “Please Please Please.”
Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell, “The Traveling Kind” (Nonesuch): A gorgeous reflection on life, hard-won wisdom and celebration from two longtime friends and musical collaborators.
Tom Russell, “The Rose of Roscrae” (Frontera): Masterful songwriter Russell enlists the help of friends and peers such as Joe Ely, David Olney, Eliza Gilkyson, Maura O’Connell and others over a staggering 52 tracks in an extraordinary piece of Americana with an expansive narrative and scope.