BLITZEN TRAPPER, Wild and Reckless  (LKC): 3½ STARS

The scruffy Portlanders pay homage to seminal influences — Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, Neil Young, traditional folk — throughout an engaging, smartly crafted album dominated by songs from a recently produced “half musical, half rock opera” theatrical piece. Frontman Eric Earley’s characters tell vivid stories: an East LA cop’s kid (“Rebel”), a Springsteenian romantic (the title track), a violated, violent teenager (the haunting “Joanna”), a hapless lover (the grooving “When I’m Dying”). Coming from a different era this might have been deemed classic rock. It’s dark, melodic, and quintessentially American, addressing love lost and possibly found, addiction, yearning for connection, and the necessary dreams that stoke belief in life’s possibilities.

SELWYN BIRCHWOOD, Pick Your Poison  (Alligator): 3 STARS

The Florida blues guitarist and lap steel player’s fourth album whips up his Albert Collins- and Buddy Guy-influenced playing, humor (“My Whiskey Loves My Ex,” “Corporate Drone”), his home state’s racially charged politics (“Police State”), ballsy baritone sax, and Sacred Steel fervor (“Even the Saved Need Saving,” the swampy “Guilty Pleasures”). His lyrics are straightforward, not poetic, but performances are the draw here. The Sonny Rhodes protégé’s polished but not slick, appealingly gruff and relatable. At Arcadia Blues Club Saturday, Nov. 4.

NOAH GUNDERSEN, White Noise  (Cooking Vinyl): 4 STARS

“Heartbreaker” from 2015’s “Carry the Ghost” howled with anguish, its scorching guitars signaling broader sonic horizons for the once earnestly acoustic Seattle songwriter. His emotive, introspective intensity remains throughout the ambitious “White Noise,” amplified by more rocking instrumentation and compositions. As with Ryan Adams’ best work, it thoughtfully layers acoustic and electric instruments with evocative production touches (like the ’80s synths shimmering through “Heavy Metals”) that somehow sound of the moment. Highlights: “Fear & Loathing,” “Wake Me Up, I’m Drowning,” the stark “Dry Year,” cathartic “Send the Rain (to Everyone).” At the El Rey in LA on Nov. 8.

CHRIS BARRON, Angels and One-Armed Jugglers (Chrysanthemum): 3½ STARS

Still a nimble performer, the humor of the Spin Doctor’s frontman is also in ingratiating form on this solo foray, livening a Spanish guitar-framed ode to a zombie girlfriend (“She doesn’t say much/ She’s a little clammy to the touch”) and adding sardonic edge to colorfully detailed rockers like “Saving Grace.” Yet he’s most affecting when, backed by horns and barroom piano, he sets aside wisecracks for the yearning title track, or celebrates sweetness amidst devastation on “Still a Beautiful World”: “Picasso and Rembrandt, you know they paint the sunsets now.”