Tony Joe White, "Smoke From the Chimney" (Easy Eye)
"Polk Salad Annie" by Elvis Presley, "Rainy Night in Georgia" by Brook Benton, "Steamy Windows" by Tina Turner — White is probably best-known as a songwriter. But he was a mesmerizing performer in his own right.
"Smoke From the Chimney" contains nine White guitar-and-voice demos fleshed out by producer Dan Auerbach and some Nashville studio aces. Filled with the deep-voiced singer's brooding swamp-rock, this album gives the American original, who died in 2018 at age 75, a worthy send-off.
The title song is a poetic evocation of grappling with old age and mortality, "Listen to Your Song" imparts a hard-earned lesson, and "Scary Stories" conjures a goosebump-inducing sense of menace. The closing "Billy" takes on an added poignancy in light of White's death: "Billy, you know as well as I/ We ain't gettin' no younger/ ... Ain't no easy way of saying goodbye/ So be sure to tell 'em all down in Texas I said hi."
Nick Cristiano, Philadelphia Inquirer
Mdou Moctar, "Afrique Victime"
The Nigerian guitarist and bandleader cites Eddie Van Halen and Prince as inspirations, but he belongs to the lineage of Tuareg desert blues that includes the venerable Ali Farka Toure and younger peers such as Bombino and Songhoy Blues.
The music of the nomadic Tuareg people has traditionally been an act of life-affirming protest, and on his sixth studio album, Moctar sings, in Tamashek and French, of displacement, women's rights and the ravages of colonialism alongside songs of religious devotion and earthly love. The album crackles with the energy and immediacy of a live performance. The title track, which builds to some wild, noisy feedback, is the album's centerpiece.
Moctar's previous album, 2019's "Ilana (The Creator)," was his U.S. breakthrough. "Afrique Victime" is equally impressive, if not more.
Steve Klinge, Philadelphia Inquirer
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• Billy Gibbons, "Hardware"
• Crowded House, "Dreamers Are Waiting"
• Wolf Alice, "Blue Weekend"