It's a week of musical fresh starts. Joss Stone flies as a free agent, alt-metal singer Ronnie Radke is free from prison, and Vanessa Carlton is the ultimate free spirit. Plus, Jimmie Vaughan finds more water in the Texas blues well. Play 'em all after you give your favorite Amy Winehouse record one more spin. Hopefully, it'll make the pain go away.
PLAY: Joss Stone, "LP1"
Free from her label EMI, Joss Stone celebrates her newfound artistic freedom with the help of Eurythmics co-founder Dave Stewart. Stone's a traditionalist who cares less about maintaining her "It" girl status than about writing music that will stand the test of time — she knows a good soul song lasts forever. Along with fellow British soulstress Adele, Stone has one foot on each side of the Atlantic and two arms around the past and future. "LP1" doesn't have that one standout track — Stone's songwriting discipline gets sidetracked by her seduction of the groove. Still, it's a pleasure to hear a singer without a script or a net. And it's a serious primer for SuperHeavy (Stone's supergroup with Dave Stewart, Damian Marley, A.R. Rahman, and Mick Jagger) later this year. Sweet soul relief.
PLAY: Vanessa Carlton, "Rabbits on the Run"
Singer-pianist Vanessa Carlton is a heady one. Her latest, "Rabbits on the Run," is inspired by Stephen Hawking's "A Brief History of Time," and Richard Adams' "Watership Down." But don't let the academia scare you. Carlton possesses old school, ethereal singer-songwriter charm. There's nothing like a literate collection of songs to shake of the pop-skank sludge and make you remember when smarts wasn't such a dirty word in the pop music world.
SKIP: BoDeans, "Indigo Dreams"
Waukesha, Wisconsin's favorite sons release their tenth studio album in 25 years, and they sound tired. "Indigo Dreams" is a brave attempt to keep the Americana flame alive, but it falls between the cracks of under-baked songs and uninspired performances. It's too bad: I want these guys to win. But I also want them to show me they want it.
PLAY: Falling in Reverse, "The Drug in Me Is You"
Free from prison and ready to rock, former Escape the Fate lead singer Ronnie Radke unveils his new band for his legion of teenage fans who've been waiting for more than two years for him to get sprung. Parents, priests, and non-believers will question the wisdom of worshipping a felon. Let them preach. That's the history of rock 'n' roll. Falling in Reverse is this generation's Mötley Crüe — minus the addictions. Radke's new band has just the right balance of emo and metal to make the Warped kids weak. Their image and music are as tightly controlled as a Hot Topic mall store, but they've got the riffs and charisma to be leaders. If Radke can stay clean and out of jail, you'll be seeing them on Ozzfest 2050, when they're old and tattooed. These guys have every reason to grow old together.
PLAY: Jimmie Vaughan, "Plays More Blues, Ballads & Favorites"
Now two decades years after his baby brother Stevie Ray's death, Jimmie Vaughan continues to keep his spirit — and more importantly the blues — alive. On his sequel to 2010's "Plays Blues, Ballads & Favorites," Vaughan brings back Double Trouble founding member Lou Ann Barton to share vocal duties, this time giving her billing on the album's cover. It's not only a nod to the Austin blues heritage they share but also to their shared love of the swinging blues boogie that's fueled their lives. In the hands of anyone else, recording these standards would be an admission of creative surrender. For Jimmie Vaughan, these songs are literally life and death. Thank God he's keeping them alive for Stevie Ray, Freddie King, and all the other late, great Texas guitar slingers.