CD and Book Reviews

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With Jackpot (Watermelon), The Derailers take the classic Buck Owens-Bakersfield ethos, itself rooted in Texas dance music, full circle. Augmented by sidemen, the Austin trio weaves a kinetic beat, punchy guitars, and rich harmonies into a feel-good sound with hints of darkness at its center. The kaleidoscopic twang of romps like “My Heart’s Ready” goes into overdrive for stomps like “100% Pure Fool.” John Morthland

Sculptor-pianist Terry Allen may be the smartest, most subversive singer-songwriter in contemporary country music—or he may just be a Renaissance dude who knows how to exploit his connection to all things wide open and West Texan. Either way, on human remains (Sugar Hill), the Lubbock native transforms high art (“Wilderness of This World,” co-written with David Byrne) and low art (“Peggy Legg,” the story of a good-hearted, one-legged woman) into intelligent verse, and he sings it in an unapologetic drawl that puts him in a class all his own. Joe Nick Patoski

Alejandro Escovedo’s national profile ought to swell further with the release of With These Hands, the singer-songwriter’s third solo record but his first for the prominent independent label Rykodisc. Once again the Austinite infuses his literate, wearily emotional songs with sweet melodies, darkly

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