Artist: Don Henley
Title: Cass County (Capitol)
You might like if you enjoy: The Eagles, Merle Haggard, Martina McBride
Tell me more: Fifteen years after his last solo album (2000's Inside Job), Don Henley has returned with a full-on country album Cass County (aptly named after the region of Texas where he grew up). The 68-year-old singer-songwriter calls on a star-studded cast of the celebrated likes of Mick Jagger, Merle Haggard, Miranda Lambert, Dolly Parton and Martina McBride across the 16-track deluxe edition on an album that works as a musical celebration of Henley's country influences simultaneously enriched via introspective lyrics that examine love, loss and life with poetic candor. The majority of songs here are mid-tempo or ballads, adorned with acoustic guitar, piano, mandolin, harmonica and pedal steel. The lead-off track, a take on singer-songwriter Tift Merritt's "A Bramble Rose," is a spirited treat with Henley, Lambert and Jagger sharing lead vocals; even more powerful is a poignant "Cost Of Living" where Haggard uses his rich baritone . A reworking of the Louvin Brothers' "When I Stop Dreaming" is a lovely old-time country duet where Henley and Parton blend their voices together beautifully. The album closes out with a great Eagles-styled country rocker, "Where I Am Now" with Henley celebrating his rewarding life. A key point here; definitely purchase the deluxe edition of Cass County with its four essential bonus tracks. Information: donhenley.com.
Purchase "Cass County" [Deluxe Edition] here
Artist: Gary Clark Jr.
Title: The Story of Sonny Boy Slim (Warner Bros.)
You might like if you enjoy: Al Green, Jimi Hendrix, Marvin Gaye
Tell me more: Edgy and smooth, eclectic and experimental, Gary Clark Jr.'s The Story of Sonny Boy Slim is not a conventional listen. It is, however, one of the best albums of 2015, and is bolstered by Clark's heavy contributions on lead vocals, guitar, bass, drums and keyboards. Fans of the Austin, Texas native's Jimi Hendrix-meets-Stevie Ray Vaughan guitar-steeped blues rock will find that sound here, but it is masterfully blended with soul, R&B and gospel. For example, Clark delves headlong into heavy blues-rock on both "The Healing" and "Grinder," but then dives into '70s soul territory with his sweet falsetto on "Star" and via the '50s-flavored ballad "Our Love." A mixture of retro- and genre-mashing tunes follow including gospel-folk-blues ("Church"), R&B (the horn section-enhanced "Hold On," modernistic "Wings"), and funk rock ("Can't Sleep"). Everywhere Clark's guitar play is a marvel. Information: garyclarkjr.com.
Get 'The Story of Sonny Boy Slim' here
Artist: Santana & McLaughlin
Title: Invitation to Illumination – Live at Montreux 2011 (Eagle Rock Entertainment)
You might like if you enjoy: Carlos Santana, John McLaughlin, Craig Chaquico, Jeff Beck
Tell me more: Guitar greats Carlos Santana and John McLaughlin performed a historic concert together at the Montreux Jazz Festival on July 1, 2011, blending rock, jazz, prog-rock and blues that is now available on the two-disc audio CD Invitation to Illumination – Live at Montreux 2011. The concert features most of the selections from the guitarists' 1973 album "Love Devotion Surrender," and other material that allows the players to showcase their talents. A creative instrumental medley where they rework Bob Dylan's "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall," Led Zepplin's "Stairway to Heaven" and other works together is an early highlight, as is the dazzling "Vuelta Abajo" and "Vashkar." Later in the set, they artfully trade and mirror licks on "Venus / Upper Egypt." Information: eagle-rock.com.
Purchase "Invitation To Illumination - Live At Montreux 2011" [2 CD] here
You might like if you enjoy: John Hiatt, John Prine, Randy Newman
Tell me more: On celebrated singer-songwriter Bruce Sudano's newly-issued album The Burbank Sessions, a winning mix of uptempo roots rock, blues, jazz and other styles serve to enhance songs that boast arrangements that are creatively steeped in the rich American songwriter tradition. Among the wonderful songs offered up on the seven-song disc are the genre-blending "One Beautiful Life," reggae-tinged "These Shoes" and buoyant rocker "Why Aren't You Here." While Sudano (who has penned hits for his late wife Donna Summer, as well as Michael Jackson, Dolly Parton and Reba McEntire) and his Candyman Band can gracefully fire away with power, they also offer up decidedly nuanced material (notably the ballad "September In Your Eyes" and heartfelt "Alone") that showcases Sudano's wide-ranging powers as a singer and songwriter. Information: brucesudano.com.Buy "The Burbank Sessions" on mp3 here