CHARLIE HICKEY, This is Not Easy for Me 

(self-released): 3.5 Stars

This gifted South Pasadena native’s second EP’s distinguished by a melodic pop sense and strikingly self-aware lyrics. Heavyweight players (Jay Bellerose, Phoebe Bridgers, Jennifer Condos, Patrick Warren, Beck producer Tony Berg) deliver respectful support as the LA County High School for the Arts student contemplates romance, control and faith, and neatly summarizes teenage fugue in “I’m Alive”: “Tomorrow’s always coming, it’s giving me a break/ I do so much dreaming I forget that I’m awake.” Most compelling: the earnestly strummed “Broken,” its restless yearning for an unmet other expressed with remarkable eloquence by someone who hasn’t fully tasted the world. Yet. At Genghis Cohen in LA Friday, Aug. 5.





Anyway You Love, We Know How You Feel (Silver Arrow): 3. Stars

From the funk-rippled “Narcissus Soaking Wet” through the gospel-ized twang of “California Hymn” (“If someone’s listening only time will tell/ As we throw poems down the wishing well”), CRB cross-wire their trademark Southern-rocking jams with psychedelic rock and soul. “Give Us Back Our Eleven Days” is particularly trippy, with disembodied voices reverberating above percolating bass and guitar. Of the eight tracks, the punchy groove of “Leave My Guitar Alone” edges closest to Robinson’s Black Crowe days. 




LADIES GUN CLUB, Take My Love Away (LGC):  3.5 Stars

Onstage and in studio, Sally Jaye and Sarah Roberts have always merged the earthy and the ethereal via their alchemical harmonies. Here, after taking a break to start families, the soulful duo seem creatively recharged, with muscular, sometimes psychedelic guitars and organ adding bite to tracks like “Class Reunion,” “Black Crow” and a snappy take on the Talking Heads’ “Road to Nowhere.” Heavier rhythms dominate, but midway through, as if acknowledging their Southern roots, three tracks amp the twang; “Knowing She’s on Your Mind” aches like classic Patsy Cline.




CHELLE ROSE, Ridge Blood 

(Lil’ Damsel): 3.5 Stars

Give Rose’s songs time and they reveal sturdy bones dressed in tough storytelling lyrics (“We fit together like perfect rhyme/ But nothin’ lasts in this life”) and Sergio Webb’s evocative Dobro and guitar solos. Hers is not a pretty voice — she sounds like Ray Wylie Hubbard when snarling “Reckon With the Devil” — a fact she poignantly addresses during “Sing Pretty”: “Mama always wanted me to sing pretty/ It hurts her to hear the pain that I pour out.” Highlights: the title track (enhanced by Buddy Miller’s harmony), “Hidin Hole.”