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Alan Jackson spins honest bluegrass

Alan Jackson, “The Bluegrass Album”

(ACR Records) * * * 

Amiable country singer-songwriter Alan Jackson has been talking for ages about his wish to make a straight bluegrass album. That’s why he signed on for Alison Krauss to produce his 2006 album, “Like Red on a Rose,” one of his strongest collections, but one that veered far afield from traditional bluegrass.

Not this time – there’s nothing but earthy, lonesome music-making on Jackson’s “The Bluegrass Album.” It boasts all the requisite fiddle, mandolin, banjo, dobro, acoustic guitar, upright bass and sweet bending harmonies that define bluegrass.

Jackson and album producers Keith Stegall and Adam Wright infuse a back-porch feel in original numbers here and savvy selections from other writers.

Jackson’s own “Blue Ridge Mountain Song” and “Blue Side of Heaven” demonstrate his understanding of themes central to bluegrass: the knowledge that life is hard, but the human spirit can rise above.

Randy Lewis, Los Angeles Times

CHVRCHES, “The Bones of What You Believe”

(Glassnote) * * * 

In an autumn filled with female-fronted electropop releases both big (Katy Perry, Lady Gaga) and smaller (Icona Pop), the debut from Scottish trio Chvrches might get lost. It shouldn’t be. “The Bones of What You Believe” is an assured and sober album of synthetic pop that’s set apart from their peers’ four-four barrage. But it’s still rousing, arena-ready fun.

As the air turns cooler and the skies go grayer, the rave kids are going to need a comedown, and the rest of us need some immersive, sad-eyed headphone jams. This record should do the trick for everyone.

August Brown, Los Angeles Times

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