LIZ VICE, Save Me (self-released): ****

The earthy simplicity of 2015’s fine 2015 “There’s a Light” was part of its charm but this is an altogether more mature and enticing release, both in terms of production sophistication and the quality of its gospel- and R&B-inflected songwriting. The Portland-raised singer’s vocals have been nudged forward in harmony-gilded arrangements that complement her alto’s easy warmth. Nothing feels forced or false in the seductive braid of guitar and trumpet reinforcing “To Dance With Death,” Vice’s tale of pain and redemption, or in the way she recounts “moving forward like an eagle in flight” during the soulful title track and sings (“Drift Away,” “Baby Hold On”) with persuasive conviction of hope rewarded. A keeper.


Hard Blue Space (Vizztone): ***

Guitarist John Holiday (Kid Memphis), who portrayed original “Blue Suede Shoes” rock ‘n’ roller Carl Perkins in the 2005 film “Walk the Line,” teams with onetime Perkins sideman JD Taylor for a solid, appropriately greasy blues set. Taylor’s commanding vocal presence suggests a more mellifluous Dr. John, and his burning harmonica tones — and Dave Thomas’ B3 organ — ring Holiday’s snaking guitar lines like footlights on a stage. Highlights: “Six Foot Down,” “Cold Inside,” “Got a Mind of Your Own.”

ERIN RAE, Putting on Airs (Single Lock): ***

“Let’s talk until there’s no hard feelings”: The East Nashville singer-songwriter opens with a calmly beguiling invitation, celebrating the beauty of humility and taking time with the swoony “Grand Scheme” (“How small we are in the grand scheme/ How great”). Guitarist/producers Jerry Bernhardt and Dan Knobler add musical heft to the telling details in her intelligent lyrics, and while her melodies are neither as hooky nor as magnetic as those of Caroline Spence and Margo Price, their fans should appreciate tracks like “Love Like Before” and “Bad Mind.”

VARIOUS ARTISTS, African Scream Contest 2 

(Analog Africa): ***½

A second, tastefully curated and packaged exaltation of earthy voodoo funk from the West African republic of Benin circa 1963-1980. Tracks like Ignace de Souza & the Melody Aces’ grinding “Asaw Fofor,” Lokonon Andre’s “Glenon Hoe Akue,” and T.P. Orchestre Poly Rythmo’s “Moulon Devia” melt Congolese drums, Cuban horns, psychedelic guitar and funk bass into steamy liquid grooves, while Super Borgou de Parakou’s “Baba L’oke Ba’wagbe” offers a respectable approximation of James Brown’s righteous scream — the biggest “scream” here, but that shouldn’t keep away Afrobeat and funk fans.