Amos Lee, “My New Moon” (Dualtone)
A lot of singers have put out angry music in the Trump era, but Lee may have written the first great protest song: “Crooked,” a smoldering, darkly humorous hymn about a “crooked leader on a crooked stage” who “seems to think he’s standing tall.” Lee, 41, a veteran Philadelphia singer-songwriter who has worked with Norah Jones and Willie Nelson, does not absolve himself (and, by extension, the rest of us) from blame in the song: “Turns out that I’m crooked, too,” he sings, in his understated rasp.
The rest of “My New Moon” is pristinely written, arranged and performed, of a piece with Lee’s seven previous albums, notably 2013’s hit “Mountains of Sorrow, Rivers of Song.” It begins with “All You Got Is a Song,” in which an R&B orchestra with fantastic backup vocalists empathizes with Lee’s chorus about singing away the pain, and peaks with a going-home anthem about Louisville, Ky.
Lee has spent 15-some years perfecting a soothing rock-and-soul style in the same ballpark as younger contemporaries Leon Bridges and Nathaniel Rateliff, but of all the strong material on “My New Moon,” it’s “Crooked” that suggests a potent new direction.
STEVE KNOPPER, Newsday
Robbie Fulks-Linda Gail Lewis, “Wild! Wild! Wild!” (Bloodshot)
On “Round Too Long,” the piano-pounding boogie that opens “Wild! Wild! Wild!,” Lewis fairly spits out, “This ain’t an old folks reunion.” No, it’s not. What it is is an out-of-left-field pairing of the sister of the Killer himself, Jerry Lee Lewis, and veteran Americana singer-songwriter Fulks. They’re not spring chickens, to be sure, but you wouldn’t know it — they have combined to produce one of the year’s liveliest and most entertaining sets.
The piano-playing Lewis, 71, has recorded duet albums with her brother and Van Morrison, but she seems to have a special chemistry with the 55-year-old Fulks. Maybe that’s because he has come up with his best material in years.
Numbers such as “Round Too Long,” “I Just Lived a Country Song” and “Till Death” echo his brilliant early work, when he managed to embrace the conventions of country while slyly and affectionately sending them up.
On the other hand, there’s no irony in “Foolmaker” or “That’s Why They Call It Temptation,” the latter of which sounds like a classic George-and-Tammy or Conway-and-Loretta duet.
The Fulks originals are augmented by chestnuts like Don Gibson’s “Who Cares,” which introduces some jazzy strains; the gospel-inflected “On the Jericho Road”; and “Boogie Woogie Country Gal,” which gives Lewis another chance to cut loose on the 88s.
For all the sass Lewis displays here, the album ends on a strikingly tender note, with her delivery of the quietly reflective “Hardluck, Louisiana.” The performance underscores the depth of this inspired collaboration. Fulks wrote the ballad, but it’s about Lewis’ childhood, and the feeling she brings to it points up just how perfectly he captured her story.
NICK CRISTIANO, Philadelphia Inquirer
• Paul McCartney, “Egypt Station”
• Paul Simon, “In the Blue Light”
• St. Paul and the Broken Bones, “Young Sick Camellia”
• Waxahatchee, “Great Thunder”
• Lenny Kravitz, “Raise Vibration”
• Macy Gray, “Ruby”
• Kathy Mattea, “Pretty Bird”
• Spiritualized, “And Nothing Hurt”
• Paul Carrack, “These Days”
• Swamp Dogg, “Love, Loss and Auto-Tune”