Merry Clayton, "Beautiful Scars" (Motown Gospel )
Clayton's spine-tingling vocal on the Rolling Stones' "Gimme Shelter" is one of the most indelible in rock history, created, as Clayton recounts in the film "20 Feet from Stardom," during a late-night recording session that had her pairing off with Mick Jagger while wearing a mink coat and curlers in her hair.
That Oscar-winning 2013 documentary finally gave Clayton her due. Then tragedy: A car accident in 2014 resulted in both of her legs being amputated below the knee.
"Beautiful Scars" is the first album the 72-year-old singer has made since then. Produced by Lou Adler, who guided Clayton's underappreciated 1970s solo career, it's a return to the New Orleans-born vocalist's gospel roots, with a contemporary sheen. Along with traditional spirituals such as "Touch the Hem of His Garment," the album matches Clayton's strong and sublime voice with songwriters who specialize in soft-rock anthems.
Both "Love Is a Mighty River," by Coldplay's Chris Martin, and the title cut, by power-ballad specialist Diane Warren, give Clayton the opportunity to soar heavenward. In a no-holds-barred take on Leon Russell's "A Song for You," she makes the most of a long-overdue moment, singing her song for us, and for herself.
Dan Deluca, Phladelphia Inquirer
Norah Jones, " 'Til We Meet Again" (Blue Note)
Jones has dipped into many genres, but her first live album showcases her impressive talents as a singer and piano player while aiming for the jazz-pop sweet spot that made her famous. It's a lovely, comforting record that favors thoughtful ballads like "After the Fall" and her debut hit, "Don't Know Why."
She shines on soul-jazz numbers such as "Those Sweet Words" and "Flipside," which call to mind '60s great Les McCann. The one surprise is a cover of Soundgarden's "Black Hole Sun," recorded shortly after Chris Cornell's death. Alone at the piano, Jones turns the grunge classic into a seven-minute elegy; it's a captivating transformation.
Steve Klinge, Phladelphia Inquirer
• Ashley Monroe, "Rosegold"
• Dropkick Murphys, "Turn Up That Dial"
• Guided by Voices, "Earth Man Blues"
• Tony Allen, "There Is No End"