Album: Glasvegas (Columbia)
In stores: Now
Why we care: London music mags, a cynical bunch for sure, are calling Glasvegas the "best new band in Britain." This earnest, noisy quartet combines the working-class jangle of their Scottish roots (that's the "Glas-") with the hopeful despair of Sin City (that's the "-vegas"). Think the sturm of My Bloody Valentine sullying the glitz of the Killers.
Why we like it: Lead singer-songwriter-guitarist James Allan looks just like Joe Strummer — and kind of sounds like him, too. But Glasvegas doesn't long to start a white riot. They just want to crawl into a pub and romanticize their blue-collar lives. Daddy's Gone uses '60s-girl-group sh-booms to tell a tale of familial woe.
Reminds us of: Christmas carols by the Clash
Download this: Geraldine
Album: Johnny Cash Remixed (Compadre)
In stores: Jan. 27
Why we care: When Elvis got the posthumous remix treatment (A Little Less Conversation), it made fun, if slick, sense. The King's R&B was inherently danceable and built for boogie. But the late, great Man in Black interpreted by Snoop Dogg and the knob-twiddling guys who did the Sopranos theme? Sounds like trouble.
Why we like it: Snoop's do-over of I Walk the Line leaves the Man in Black sounding tinny and weak under heavy hip-hop. That's just wrong. But Alabama 3 drags Leave That Junk Alone through electro-grit and treats Cash as an otherworldly hero with the voice of God. Enough smart DJs here do the same.
Reminds us of: "I hear the train a-comin . . ."
Download this: The Heavy's Doin' My Time
Willie Nelson & Asleep at the Wheel
Album: Willie and the Wheel (Bismeaux)
In stores: Feb. 3
Why we care: Now here's a much more natural collaboration. Smokin' Willie Nelson and those rootin'-tootin' rapscallions in Asleep at the Wheel tackle classic Western swing songs all handpicked by late producer Jerry Wexler. This project has been percolating for years, but the Red-Headed Stranger and his steel-pedal pals tackle 12 frisky numbers with a relaxed verve and reverent energy.
Why we like it: Swing legends Spade Cooley and Bob Wills get their cuts covered and cooked with extra pep. Ray Benson runs the Wheel like a saucy square-dance caller, and Vince Gill and Paul Shaffer make cameos.
Reminds us of: Woody's Round-Up
Download this: Sweet Jennie Lee
SONG OF THE WEEK
Company of Thieves
Song: Oscar Wilde
In stores: iTunes
Why we care: I used to have a huge crush on Natalie Merchant. It made sense in an opposites-attract sort of way. I was an unrefined, Funyuns-eating goon. The 10,000 Maniacs dervish was a wallflowery feminist who didn't own a TV. I'm telling you, I loved that crazy gal. I'm now feeling very much the same way about Genevieve Schatz, the spinny, yelpy lead singer of Chicago trio Company of Thieves. I'm fairly certain she'd hate me . . . and I dig that about her! I'm over you, Merchant!
Why we like it: "We are all our own devil / And we make this world our hell." Schatz takes modern life to task as crunchy guitarist Marc Walloch plays as if he's in a Rolling Stones tribute band, a sweet and sour combo for sure.
Reminds us of: Who am I kidding? I STILL LOVE YOU, NATALIE! WHERE ARE YOU?!