Various artists, "Nashville" (Big Machine)
ABC's salacious drama about the country-music business presents Nashville as a city of flash, but the real showstoppers have been something else: small songs, sung closely, in intimate rooms: "If I Didn't Know Better," the breathy, naughty duet sung by Gunnar Scott (Sam Palladio) and Scarlett O'Connor (Clare Bowen), and the tragic "No One Will Ever Love You," sung by the superstar Rayna James (Connie Britton) and her bandleader/ex-boyfriend Deacon Claybourne (Charles Esten). Those songs are among the standouts here. No surprise that "Nashville" is a sneaky front for traditionalist values: The soundtrack is overseen by the roots-oriented T Bone Burnett, while left-of-center singer/songwriter Buddy Miller produced several of the songs. One of the slickest, "Telescope" by teenage phenom Juliette Barnes (Hayden Panettiere), is also presented as a striking acoustic duet by Rayna's two daughters, played by Lennon and Maisy Stella, Canadian sisters whose parents perform as the Stellas.
JON CARAMANICA, NEW YORK TIMES
Green Day, "¡Tré!" (Reprise)
For the final installment of Green Day's back-to-basics trilogy, we hear more from the band's teary pop "Good Riddance" side than from its snotty punk "Longview" side. The dozen tracks here spotlight acoustic guitars, harmony vocals, piano and strings. The top half of the record has some nice moments of contrast; there's the creepy "Drama Queen," wrapped in chipper melody and guitar strumming, and the brokenhearted "Missing You," delivered along propulsive rock lines. And while Green Day presumably crafted this series to step away from the rock operas it had been producing, the band anchors the second half of this record with the 6 1/2-minute, four-movement "Dirty Rotten Bastards." There's also an "Occupy"-influenced political statement in "99 Revolutions." But Green Day still sounds best when it's confused, angry and playing with abandon, as on "Sex, Drugs, & Violence.
SCOTT MCLennan, Boston Globe
Judy Garland, "The Amsterdam Concert, December 1960" (First Hand)
You might call this "The Road to Carnegie Hall Part 2." After a near-death experience from hepatitis late in 1959, Garland decamped to London, where a series of recording sessions and concerts led to her return to New York in the famous Carnegie Hall concert and album. This live set, the second volume released by First Hand, was recorded by Dutch radio four months before New York, with Garland in excellent voice and sounding incredibly relaxed and playful. The repertoire is close to "Carnegie Hall," but tempos are less driven. After an uncertain beginning, there are superior readings of such songs as "You Go to My Head" and "Come Rain or Come Shine." It's all very candid and homey, especially during encores: "We've got an old thing that I sang in 1783 in a movie -- and that was the last one I was in, by the way."
DAVID PATRICK STEARNS, PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER