Jennifer Holliday, "The Song Is You" (Shanachie)

Twenty-some years have passed since her last secular album, but Holliday's presence has been felt. During Broadway's original run of "Dreamgirls," the Tony winner set the standard for belting out emotional songs of independence with "And I Am Telling You, I'm Not Going." She didn't benefit as much from her "Dreamgirls" fame as Oscar-winning Jennifer Hudson did from the film version, but Holliday, 53, is three times the vocalist when it comes to thunder and quiet nuance. She relies on her church roots for her husky, holy inflection. "Are You Leaving Me?" is a bold proposition. She offers a warm, intimate embrace ("The Look of Love") and a sassy, jazzy, big-band feel in the title track. This is a well-rounded, much-welcome return to form.

A.D. Amorosi, Philadelphia Inquirer

streaming audio

Hurray for the Riff Raff is the name that rootsy New Orleans singer-songwriter Alynda Lee Segarra records under. On her album "Small Town Heroes," out Tuesday, she shows Jerry Jeff Walker's flair for melody and Lucinda Williams' bent for examining deep emotions — only with a prettier voice. Streaming at NPR's "First Listen."

Jon Bream