By Bliss Bowen 08/07/2014

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NAOMI SHELTON & THE GOSPEL QUEENS, Cold World (Daptone): 4 stars

James Brown and Sam Cooke clearly provided inspirational templates for the Brooklyn soul veteran, whose gutsy sound evolved from childhood church choir through a lifetime of nightclub singing. The Gospel Queens’ spot-on three-part harmonies complement Shelton’s rough rasp while instantly evoking the ’60s-’70s heyday of gospel-forged soul, in a funky, satisfying set that connects the spiritual with the secular by addressing themes of social justice. Highlights: “Sinner,” “It’s a Cold, Cold World.”

JENNY LEWIS, The Voyager (Warner Bros): 3 1/2 stars

On Lewis’ first solo album since 2008’s “Acid Tongue,” the surface gloss, harmonic flourishes and dispassionate delivery of smartly written tracks like “Head Underwater,” “She’s Not Me” and “The New You” evoke ’80s-era Fleetwood Mac and Aimee Mann. Those deceptively nostalgic touches underscore false comforts surrounding Lewis’ characters; tension sparks as seemingly upbeat or relaxed tempos rub against her flint-like lyrics. Ryan Adams’ production highlights the tough beauty of her vocals and tunes — though for songs inspired by messy grief, they sound neatly contained. At the Wiltern in LA Saturday.

GRACE ASKEW, Scaredy Cat (self-released): 3 1/2 stars

On her newest album, the Memphis-based ex-“Voice” contestant comes off like a confident love child of Blind Willie McTell and Bobbie Gentry; her gritty slide playing and slurred, come-thither alto make a potent combo. The Delta blues vibe animating “Bad Habit” and “Cinnamon” is engaging, but most effective with “Out on Your Front Steps,” when the humid atmosphere matches her lyric: “Inside the TV’s on and the stove is hot/ In your mind she’s everything the others were not.” At Hotel Café in Hollywood Saturday; Silverlake Lounge in Silver Lake Sunday.

LOUISE GOFFIN, Songs From the Mine (Majority of One): 3 1/2 stars

Singing in a girlish soprano that sounds like a more cosmopolitan Julie Miller, Goffin offers sweetly touching, melodic ballads of encouragement (“Everybody But You,” “Here Where You Are Loved”), understanding (“Some of Them Will Fool You”) and self-mocking introspection (the French-splattered “Deep Dark Night of the Soul”), plus a couple of life-affirming pop-rockers for good measure. Her midtempo proclivities are brightened by unexpected instrumental choices — ukulele here, tuba there — that grab the ear. At the Viper Room in West Hollywood Thursday, Aug. 14.


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