MDOU MOCTAR, Ilana (The Creator) (Sahel Sounds): 4 Stars

Guitar-centric albums like those that helped define the classic rock era have long since ceased to dominate pop culture, but inspired Nigerian guitarist Moctar owns his Hendrix-purpled musical heritage while turbo-charging desert blues with a lightning bolt of relevance. The righteous title track addresses uranium mining in Niger (“Our benefits are only dust”), and frenzied, rocking standouts “Kahane Tarhanin,” “Asshet Akal” and the seven-minute shred-fest “Tarhatazed” are similarly rooted in hardships endured by the Tuareg community and the violence and environmental devastation afflicting West Africa. A vital expansion of the canon. At Zebulon in Silver Lake Saturday, April 20. mdoumoctar.bandcamp.com

HONEYBLOOD, In Plain Sight (Marathon Artists): 3 Stars

Recording in LA with St. Vincent producer John Congleton, Scottish songwriter Stina Tweeddale ventures into hallucinatory territory with rockers like “She’s a Nightmare,” the thrumming “You’re a Trick” and spacey “Tarantella.” Her thought-provoking lyrics, punchy vocals and stylistic shifts — from guitar-centered rock to dark grooves, classic girl group pop (“The Third Degree”) to ’80s synth-rock (“Touch”) — combine to make this reality-questioning set cut and stick more than expected. Album to be released May 24; band playing the Echo in Echo Park April 23. honeyblood.co.uk

ANNA TIVEL, The Question (Fluff and Gravy): 3½ Stars

The Portland singer-songwriter’s fourth album empathetically conveys the dreams and frustrations of characters (“Homeless Child,” “Two Strangers,” the fire-robbed “Anthony”) informed by her extensive road travels. “Unbar the pearly gate, unblock the road/ ’Cause down here at the border… I’m just an animal,” she sings over atmospheric strings and a tight drumbeat during the migrant-inspired “Fenceline”; elsewhere, an otherworldly groove underscores the heat and despair of “Worthless.” Producer Shane Leonard’s sensitive arrangements enhance the sense of entering an alternate world of Tivel’s creation. Annativel.com

WILL KIMBROUGH, I Like It Down Here (Daphne): 4 Stars 

“I killed a man to get in here,” the veteran songwriter/guitarist sings like a disembodied ghost over swampy licks on “Buddha Blues.” It’s a highlight of an ingratiatingly listenable album that finds Kimbrough sliding up to sweet pop high notes (“Hey Trouble”) and getting inventive with blues forms while dealing with cycles of love and loss, sin and redemption, and his Southern heritage. “Alabama (For Michael Donald)” evokes the South’s endless duality, pairing a lulling pastoral melody with the chilling tale of Donald’s 1981 lynching; illuminated by stormy slide guitar and Shemekia Copeland’s authoritative harmony, it’s a stunning piece of songwriting and history. Willkimbrough.com