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Abra Moore’s wispy, quivering voice works hard to be heard among the loud, rude guitars of Strangest Places (Arista/Austin). It’s a far cry from her earlier, softer work with Poi Dog Pondering and as a solo artist. Even when she falters, the Austinite’s transformation into a rocker adds resonance to songs about self-identity, such as “Four Leaf Clover.” Meanwhile, her musings on romantic yearnings, illusions, and lessons learned replace her former hippie mysticism with a tense balancing act between the ethereal and the hard-nosed. JOHN MORTHLAND

Silly love songs and lines about Dungeons and Dragons might betray Radish front man Ben Kweller’s sixteen years, but on the Greenville trio’s debut, Restraining Bolt (Mercury), the execution is perfectly mature. Radish’s threadbare melodic alternative sound seems generic at times, but Kweller’s songwriting is definitely not: The kid’s got more hooks than Norman MacLean, and his emotional vocal phrasings add complexity and drama to the band’s catchy, simple pop tunes. JASON COHEN

There’s more than a little bit of Bill and Bonnie Hearne in Jerry Jeff Walker’s plaintive moan, Lyle Lovett’s eclectic instrumentation, Nanci Griffith’s delicate lyricism, and Robert Earl Keen’s larruping barroom swagger. Diamonds in the Rough (Warner Western) shows why the ex-Austinites have exerted such a strong influence on so many Texas folkies over the past 25 years. Singing in voices as pure as springwater, the Hearnes

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