JOYANN PARKER, Hard to Love

(Hopeless Romantics): ***

Blasting forth defiantly (“You say you’re gonna change/ But I ain’t staying to find out”) with the throbbing “Memphis,” the Minnesota blueswoman throws down a gauntlet and sets a high bar of expectations that the rest of this 13-track album generally meets. It showcases her as a singing, songwriting (with guitarist Mark Lamoine), guitar-playing, self-producing, self-aware powerhouse, but the driving force is unquestionably her voice — a formidable instrument she wields with soul and taste. RIYL Shemekia Copeland and Janiva Magness. Joyannparker.com

THE TURBANS, The Turbans

(Six Degrees): ****½

Thirteen musicians from 10 countries (including England, Greece, Iran, Israel, Spain and Turkey) form this inspiring musical tribe — and when their numbers swell with the addition of the London Bulgarian Choir during “Sinko Moy,” and their widely varying scales and styles harmonize on “Kansianitsa,” they genuinely thrill. Extensive concert improvisations guided their fusion of Balkan, flamenco, gypsy, Indian raga, klezmer and Middle Eastern rhythms, with robust vocals from Bulgarian frontman Miroslav Morski. At a time of global turmoil, this zesty collaborative project hearteningly reminds of the unity possible when individuals honor common ground. theturbans.co.uk

JEFF PLANKENHORN, Sleeping Dogs

(Spike Steel): ***

The veteran sideman follows his worthy 2016 solo release “Soul Slide” with a more polished, hookier set dotted with guest appearances by fellow Austinites Patty Griffin and Ray Wylie Hubbard. Plank’s lap steel chops power Hubbard co-write “Tooth and Nail,” roadhouse rockers “Piece of Cake” and “Homecoming” and the dreamy “Heaven and Earth,” but his songs are the star — especially anthem “Love is Love” and swoony ballad “Further to Fall” (written with Gabe Rhodes), which finds him playing a “hard luck, bad luck, no luck at all” lover bargaining with the inevitable. Jeffplankenhorn.com

KIM RICHEY, Edgeland

(Yep Roc): ***½

From its opening bars of guitars chiming with fiddles, Richey’s eighth album reaffirms her knack for marrying pop hooks to ingratiating melodies. Sweetness and melancholy sway through “High Time”; cello and fingerpicked guitar shadow emotional canyons of the moving character study “Your Dear John”; mistakes are acknowledged with mostly hopeful perspectives during tracks like “Not for Money or Love,” the Chuck Prophet duet “Whistle on Occasion” and “Chase Wild Horses” (“Back when the nights went on forever/ I tried to race my demons the longest mile/ I ran my best but they ran better/ I don’t chase wild horses anymore”). Throughout, Richey’s unblemished tones share confidences with the warmth of an old friend. Kimrichey.com