Although it begins with an affable embrace, Gulf Coast Blues ambles toward darker terrain as it winds on, with songs that spin a sinewy, seductive tapestry of blues, folk, gospel, and country. Now settled on Texas' Gulf Coast, Franke builds her narratives around a cast of characters that inhabit the state's outer environs, driving songs like "Elegance" and "Moments" with a slap and strum guitar style that brings to mind early Joni Mitchell, Joan Armatrading, and Tracy Chapman. Soothing and seductive, honest and intriguing, Franke's third album is easily her most impressive effort yet. (www.denicefranke.com) You gotta give kudos to an artist who persists in recording her debut album while coping with a disaster like Hurricane Katrina and watching an illness claim her mother. Ruby Rendrag gathered that singular determination, and consequently, Wartime Favorites, reflects the turmoil alluded to in its title. Possessing a powerful set of pipes — think of the seductive desire of Ann Wilson or Pat Benatar — she powers through a series of tangled melodies anchored by acoustic guitars, cello, and sensual suggestion. Likewise, a Radiohead cover and unlikely take on "Clair De Lune" create an exotic mix that further adds to her intrigue. (www.rubyrendrag.com).Once the prime mover in the mellow Americana band Eastmountainsouth, Adams transfers that band's musical template to his new individual efforts. On his second solo album, he offers the perfect late-night soundtrack with sweet, dreamy ballads and simple arrangements. Just listen to the unaccompanied piano on "Los Angeles," or the swaying violin on "Song For Viola," peppered with a hint of banjo and accordion, to understand his approach. At only 38 minutes, Leavetaking offers just a fleeting encounter, but every moment is mesmerizing and well worth it. (www.peterbradleyadams.com).Plying lush acoustic textures to their mournful melodies, Everest takes a "Nu Folk" approach to its music. The band has the cred (members pilfered from Sebadoh, Earlimart, the Folk Implosion, John Vanderslice, and the Watson Twins), so band members are well-prepared as they enter the indie sweepstakes. Singer Robert Pollard echoes Neil Young's plaintive wail, an element that possibly factored into their signing with Young's Vapor Records. It works well with their distinct '60s sensibility. If you imagine Creedence Clearwater Revival cozying up to CSNY while Pink Floyd provides the dreamy nocturnal vibe, you'll begin to get the idea. (www.everestband.com)
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