Album: The Bright Mississippi (Nonesuch)
In stores: Now
Why we care: Raised in a New Orleans shotgun shack, and displaced from his native city by the floods of Katrina, Allen Toussaint is a piano-playing legend, an R&B god — and a cool cat at that. Here he helms a history lesson/forget-me-not, revisiting the ghosts (Sidney Bechet, Jelly Roll Morton) who helped create the melting pot magic of N'awlins jazz.
Why we like it: Produced by Joe Henry (a.k.a. Madonna's brother-in-law), the album is as creaky and comfy as the dusty floorboards of Preservation Hall. Toussaint, 61, pairs with trumpeter Nicholas Payton and clarinetist Don Byron, merging klezmer, blues, swing, soul . . .
Reminds us of: Credits in a Woody Allen flick
Download this: St. James Infirmary
Hill Country Revue
Album: Make a Move (Razor & Tie)
In stores: Now
Why we care: When brother Luther up and ditched him for a stint with the Black Crowes, Cody Dickinson didn't know what to do. He'd been playing with his sib all his life, mostly in the North Mississippi Allstars. But what-to-do didn't last long. With fellow 'star Chris Chew, Cody launched Hill Country Revue, trippy Southern rockers who cover songs by blues master R.L. Burnside and son Garry.
Why we like it: From cheeky theme song Hill Country Revue to the open-road Allman Brothers sprawl of You Can Make It, the shaggy band jams and solos and invites as many guitarists to a track as possible. (A good brother, Luther drops in for some fun, too. Aw, hugs!)
Reminds us of: MD 20/20, Orange Jubilee
Download this: Hill Country Revue
Album: Ten: Deluxe Edition (Epic/Legacy)
In stores: Now
Why we care: The grunge progenitors born Mookie Blaylock (and quickly, smartly renamed) are celebrating the 20th anniversary of debut smash Ten. Never mind that the album actually came out in 1991 — it's a Pearl Jam party! As part of the basic deluxe edition (there are three editions), singer Eddie Vedder & Co. had current producer Brendan O'Brien remix former producer Rick Parashar's original take, stripping off sonic sheen and going for organic.
Why we like it: Grunge, as a rule, is a joke, the worst shelf life of any pop genre. But all these years later, I realize Vedder is, in fact, a captivating singer and a good dude. Pearl Jam rules . . .
Reminds us of: . . . but Nirvana is still overrated.
Download these: Once and Why Go
SONG OF THE WEEK
Black Eyed Peas
Song: Boom Boom Pow
In stores: Available on iTunes
Why we care: For the life of me, I can't figure out why the new BEP jam had such a stranglehold on iTunes' No. 1 spot. Seriously, the pitch-tuned, minimalist cut was the unbeatable king for weeks. Sure, you could blame the stunted imagination of the pop-gobbling public. But come on, even novelty gunk like Soulja Boy had a fun, funky hook. There's nothing here! I'm willing to bet Will.i.am — who I usually like — whipped this up in an hour.
Why we like it: "I'm so 3008, you're so 2000-and-late." That's not a bad line, delivered by the rather intriguing, decidedly hot Fergie. Of course, it would have been far less lazy if they could have rhymed something with 3009. Do I sound like a curmudgeon? Is it cold in here?
Reminds us of: You kids get off my lawn!