KYLE CRAFT, Full Circle Nightmare

(Sub Pop): ****

2016’s “Dolls of Highland” was a glam rock-dusted set that established the Louisianan-turned-Oregonian’s storytelling bona fides and serious study of ’70s rockers and songwriters. Poetic wordplay and bold, evocative arrangements stir memories of Bowie, The Band, and the Stones throughout this viscerally satisfying follow-up, but Craft doesn’t steal, he synthesizes, vividly depicting carnival-esque visions of “Fever Dream Girl,” “Slick & Delta Queen,” “Fake Magic Angel” and temptresses dancing to “Exile Rag” (“The barroom and the busted lamplight keep you company/ It’s there you’ll speak her name but give in to the lips of strangers”).


Black Coffee (J&R Adventures): ****

Following 2014’s “Live in Amsterdam,” the blues-rock duo’s third studio collaboration is the most consistent and compelling. There are plenty of ripping exchanges between Bonamassa’s guitar and Reese Wynan’s magisterial organ, but they and their top-drawer bandmates all make way for the queen. Hart’s in commanding form, her phrasing and guttural power igniting blues chestnuts like “Sitting on Top of the World” and Etta James’ signature “Damn Your Eyes” as well as sultry jazz standard “Lullaby of the Leaves” and juicy plums from the songbooks of LaVern Baker, Lucinda Williams and Edgar Winter. Hart and Bonamassa sound like they’re having a grand time, and that spirit radiates through the grooves.

BEN MILLER BAND, Choke Cherry Tree

(New West): ***½

Miller’s energy and smartly written, rootsy songs that resist categorization set the foundation for this eclectic set, produced by Decemberists multi-instrumentalist Chris Funk, who also accompanies the Missouri band. After weirdly amusing opener “Nothing Gets Me Down” (“The other night I got so fucked up/ I was peeing in the sink and I fell in the tub”), the album’s dominated by stomping rockers like “Akira Kurosawa” and the addictive “Life of Crime,” with some Cajun two-stepping and folk introspection in between. Recommended for open-eared fans of ZZ Top, Drive-By Truckers, Mojo Monkeys.

THE RIVERSIDE, Great Northern Expanse

(self-released): **½

This acoustic recording’s lo-fi vibe complements the Santa Barbara ensemble’s gently melodic tunes, rendered with minimum fuss and maximum sincerity. Harmonies and instrumental passages between guitarist Jake Jeanson, mandolinist Lorien Jeanson, bassist Sarah Organista, banjoist Will Breman and percussionist Evan Kramer elevate bucolic tracks like “Ferndale,” “Bluebird Morning Hymnal,” “Muddy River Song,” and a sweet rendition of gospel standard “How Great Thou Art.” Those instrumentals are the sonic takeaway, akin to a friendly living room jam.