Album: Mr. Lucky (Reprise)
In stores: Now
Why we care: Seven years have passed since the high-haired 'n' lonesome crooner released a new album. But the long layoff no doubt had more to do with the 52-year-old's surfing habit than writer's block. The Cult of Chris will be happy (or happily forlorn) to know that the Stockton, Calif., bachelor remains committed to twangy loneliness and relaxed rockabilly, all owing to Mr. Roy Orbison.
Why we like it: Same ol' themes aside, Isaak does his job very well. As he uncorks 14 new doozies (try Cheater's Town), he and his Silvertone band even put surly new fuzz into the mix. Last call at the gritty Heartbreak Honkytonk.
Reminds us of: Check out his new talk show, The Chris Isaak Hour, on the Bio network.
Download this: Best I Ever Had
Album: Underneath the Owl (Volcom)
In stores: Now
Why we care: The house band at the Mark Twain Dinette? Not even close. The Riverboat Gamblers are from Denton, Texas — but truly born from the soil overlying Joe Strummer's restless grave. This ramshackle quintet is a punk-rock outfit known for dangerously fun live shows. Beer to the left, first-aid to the right. Commence mayhem.
Why we like it: The boys still like their drinking, drugging and all the post-haze problems that come with. But 12 years in, they've also started to indulge in (relative) polish. For all the three-chords-and-a-cloud-of-smoke riffs, you'll find a glockenspiel here, a lovely harmony there . . .
Reminds us of: . . . but don't worry, in the end, everyone still gets arrested.
Download this: Keep Me From Drinking
Album: Blue Lights on the Runway (Yep Roc)
In stores: Now
Why we care: A fancy new cell phone plan? Unlimited texting with Bell X1? Not even close. This four-piece rock band is actually the pride of Ireland. Early versions of the group featured Damien Rice (The Blower's Daughter), a Brit folkie with serious girl issues. The mood is still pretty downbeat about dames, but the remaining blokes like to plug in and get trippy, too, swirly Brit-pop with a side of 'shrooms.
Why we like it: The Great Defector is jaunty, jolly, despite the Of Mice and Men references. Singer Paul Noonan might not own up to doing a David Byrne impression, but you get the feeling the dude definitely owns an XXXL suit jacket.
Reminds us of: If Coldplay worked Woodstock
Download this: How Your Heart Is Wired
SONG OF THE WEEK
Album: Bad Magick: The Best of Shooter Jennings & the 357s (Universal South)
In stores: March 24
Why we care: I'm a huge fan of Waylon's irascible kid. But after just three studio albums, Shooter is way too green for the greatest-hits treatment. Here's hoping this isn't his label's way of fulfilling his contract — then showing the young outlaw the exit.
Why we like it: I've spent gallons of ink gushing about Shooter's biggest (and, to be honest, only real) hit, the life-affirming 4th of July. So this time I'm urging you to seek out the blitzed-brain disabandon of Busted in Baylor County, a true-life, fiddle-frenzied account of getting caught on the highway with a tour bus full of weed. "Don't you mess with the No. 1 dope dog in the state," Shooter drawls as a deputized pooch sniffs out the "sweet leaf" buried deep.
Reminds us of: Seriously. 4th of July. Buy it.