Tim Lee 3
In the Meantime, Good2b3
Knoxville-based rocker Tim Lee has quite the pop pedigree, thanks to a résumé that includes his seminal outfit — the late, great Windbreakers — and various projects and productions he's helmed in the 25 years since. His current efforts, shared with his wife, Susan, under the banner of the Tim Lee 3, find a tougher, more insurgent sound and a gritty defiance that recalls Tom Petty in early rebellious mode. That taut, tenacious approach was previewed earlier this year with the In the Meantime EP and reaches its zenith with the excellent Good2be3. Visit www.timleethree.com.
With her weathered, willowy vocals and vibrant acoustic strum, Pureka's music offers an instant embrace. Dryland is one of those rare albums that mesmerizes on the initial encounter with songs so beautifully affecting, they resonate with a haunting afterglow after their final notes fade. "Swann Song" in particular is an instant classic; engaging yet unobtrusive, it suggests this Massachusetts songstress could someday be a star. Visit www.chrispureka.com.
Bending the Light
No, he's not that actor who played J.J. Walker's dad on Good Times. Still, a listen to Bending the Light from New Mexico's John Amos does suggest a certain amount of déjà vu. While Amos' unassuming, back-porch style sounds as comfortable as a well-worn quilt, his supple fretwork and smoky vocals ensure that with certain songs — "If You Lived in My House," "Goin' Nowhere," and "It'll Be Late" in particular — the comparisons to Dire Straits will be all but inevitable. That said, Amos' music is etched with authenticity, his mesh of folk, blues, and trad country echoing the pulse of the heartland. Visit www.johnamosmusic.com.
Emory Joseph made a fine first impression with his debut, but on Fennario, he ups the ante by tapping the songbook of Jerry Garcia and lyricist Robert Hunter. Deadheads will recognize most of these selections and likely nod their approval, but to Joseph's credit, he avoids the obvious. So there's no "Truckin'" or "Casey Jones" but several other offerings from that era instead. His takes on "Tennessee Jed" and "Sugaree" retain the easy, affable vibe of the originals, adding up to a true American beauty. Visit www.isisrecords.com.