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Alejandro Escovedo, The Boxing Mirror (Back Porch/Narada)
For fans of: the Velvet Underground, No Depression magazine

Over the course of a three-decade career - from his days with '70s San Francisco punks the Nuns to leading '80s Texas rockers the True Believers, to his moody, rootsy solo work - Alejandro Escovedo has established himself as one of the most consistent and revered talents working in the American underground. But his world came crashing down in 2003 after he collapsed following a performance in Phoenix and was diagnosed with a potentially fatal case of hepatitis C. The next few years saw Escovedo battle the condition as a group of his musical peers rallied around him, recording the tribute album Por Vida to help defray his medical costs. Finally recovering his health, he's spent the past year making a gradual return to the road and the studio, resulting in this stellar comeback effort. Produced by longtime friend and former Velvet Undergrounder John Cale, the 11 tracks here spike Escovedo's signature brand of melancholy, orchestral Americana with a batch of atmospheric sounds, electronic touches, and programmed beats. Lyrically influenced by his recent experiences, the album brims with haunting, powerful tales of sobriety ("Arizona"), mortality ("I Died a Little Today"), and family ("Evita's Lullaby"). All told, it's a literate and musically moving song cycle that matches the depth and resonance of Escovedo's best work.  — Bob Bozorgmehr

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Golden SmogAnother Fine Day (Lost Highway)
For fans of: Ryan Adams, Neil Young

What does it take to get alt-country supergroup Golden Smog back together following an eight-year silence in studio recordings? A car. A Corvette, to be exact. According to band member (and Soul Asylum guitarist) Dan Murphy, a certain Mr. Madonna had a hand in the reformation as well. "Marc Perlman received a call in an attempt to get Golden Smog to write a song for a Guy Ritchie-produced Corvette commercial," Murphy says. As it turns out, the song recorded for that commercial, simply called "Corvette," was enough to fuel the desire of the various members - Gary Louris and Perlman (Jayhawks), Murphy, Kraig Jarrett Johnson (Run Westy Run), Jeff Tweedy (Wilco) - to adjust their schedules and complete a full album. A logistical nightmare, to be sure, but a fulfilling result, as Another Fine Day is the perfect addition to a roots-rock fan's collection, fitting nicely between the Ryan Adams and Neil Young CDs.

The combo's third full-length album features 15 tracks that mix and mesh the different styles of the performers into a smorgasbord of sound. The title track, as well as the feedback-filled "Beautiful Mind," resemble Summerteeth-era Wilco, while album closer "Think about Yourself" sounds like the prototypical Jayhawks track. Louris and Tweedy double up on the vocals of "Listen Joe," a sad, acoustic-guitar based number, and a cover of Dave Davies' "Strangers," before getting deeper in the album and delving into the past, echoing circa-1965 garage rock on "Frying Pan Eyes." Recorded over a year in two polar-opposite locales - the south of Spain and Minneapolis - surprisingly, Another Fine Day's final cuts don't indicate the piecemeal situation in which they were put together. Now if only they string together some live dates.  — James Mayfield