The Lymbs: Casa de Amor

It can be tricky to operate as a bluesy two-piece rock act without drawing comparison to either Black Keys or White Stripes, but if anyone can do it it's Albuquerque's The Lymbs. In fact, Jeff Bell and Gage Bickerstaff prove there is still plenty of room for innovation in a subgenre that was beginning to feel sorta tired. Amidst the more traditional blues guitar riffage lies a vaguely '90s alterna-rock sound that recalls the early works of killer-yet-forgotten bands like Silverchair. Singer Bickerstaff knows when to keep it quiet and soulful, but isn't afraid to shout like a motherfucker to set the mood. Stylistically, this is an odd combination, but Bell's drum work is always keeping the songs focused even if his partner is all over the map. This makes it seem like each member is an equally important part of a particularly complicated equation. It's a concept made apparent on songs like album opener "Dreamer"—a pretty head-bobber full of smooth guitar licks and momentarily heavy breakdowns—that heaps together a whole mess of rock and blues methodology and altogether avoids feeling scattered. The boys do veer perilously close to Dave Matthews Band-ish vocal melodies, but each and every time the tunes approach that laid-back or precious brand of radio rock, they ditch with the cute and head back into a Black Sabbath-y blues-metal shred-a-thon or heavy-hitting drum fill that proves their expert ability to marry soft and hard like a couple of geniuses.

Ronstadt Generations y los Tusconenses: Prelude

With Prelude, Tucson, Ariz., act Ronstadt Generations—an appropriately named, multi-generational family band—has released one of the best Americana albums since The Carter Family was still a relevant thing. And though the landscape of country and blues in a post O Brother Where Art Thou? world contains no shortage of charlatans and bandwagon folk fakers, this trio and assortment of session players proves their dedication to the tradition of roots music while driving an age-old style ever-forward. Tracks like Jimmie Rodgers' "California Blues," Joe Glazer's "The Mill Was Made of Marble" or Buffalo Springfield's "For What It's Worth" showcase a cross-section of the band's influence, but original numbers like "The Mill of Oracle" and "Thunder and Sadness" show that these guys not only know how to breathe new life into songs as old as the hills, they can create their own damn tunes and stand tall alongside the best of 'em.

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