A few of the more intriguing records I've reviewed lately for PopMatters.com:
Chicago bluesman Toronzo Cannon has recently release Leaving Mood, a strong album of straightforward blues tunes. Ranging from the rocking to the soulful to the angsty, Cannon delivers a polished set here. He doesn't exactly reinvent the form, but he does, maybe, reinvigorate it a bit. Besides, he plays a Gibson Flying V (cf. Lonnie Mack, Albert King, Dave Maine), so if nothing else he has impeccable taste in guitars.
JJ Grey is a Florida-based blues/soul/rock/whatever singer-songwriter whom I describe in my review as "a national treasure." I mean it too: if you're unfamiliar with his unique version of "swamp blues" or "Dixie soul" or whatever the heck you want to call it, you should check it out ASAP. His band, Mofro, is rock-solid too. "The Sweetest Thing" is pretty much my favorite song these days.
Power-pop doesn't get much love these days but SorryEverAfter might change all that. This 6-song EP marries energetic guitar squeal with liquid female vocals and attitude by the bushel. Pop it in the car CD player and drive somewhere fast. It's about as substantial as Cracker Jack, and twice as fun.
The Lijadu Sisters were (and are) a pair of Nigerian singers who were poised it break out worldwide in the 1970s and 80s with a string of slickly produced albums that incorporated elements of funk, soul and rock alongside more traditional West African sounds. An unfortunate accident struck down one of them and ended their career, but now the records are being re-released, beginning with their first, Danger. And what a terrific record it is! The beats are funky, the wah-wah is psychadelic, the harmony vocals will make you swoon. Even if you don't like "African music," this is worth a listen as being simply music that happens to come from Nigeria, not Motown.
Finally, here's a hip-hop record for people who hate hip-hop: No Bird Sing are a Minnesota-based trio who play live drums and guitar accompaniment to live rapping -- though the raps have more in common with tortured grunge introspection than stereotypical cars-and-bling braggadocio. The record isn't perfect, but at times it's terrifically compelling, and often it sounds like nothing else I've ever heard. For me, that counts for a lot.