By Kelly Dearmore
By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
Strangest Places, Abra Moore (Arista/Austin). Although she fell pretty much in the middle of the whole Lilith demographic--and "Four-Leaf Clover" still sounds an awful lot like the English Beat's "Save It for Later"--Moore's album has a weird solvent effect, appearing in the collections and on the stereos of people that you'd think would never go for her pretty, slightly pumped-up brand of singer-songwriter pop.
Wrapped, Bruce Robison (Boar's Nest Records). Clean and insightful, Robison's musical explorations about life and love are poetry set to country-tinged roots and rhythms and have an odd ability to catch your attention, almost before you know it.
Florecer, Nydia Rojas (Arista Latin). Mariachi poster girl continues to add Tejano pop flourishes to her traditionally based music, coming up with an album that doesn't just hew blindly to formula but actually breaks new ground--no small feat in the somewhat rigid field.
All About Satellites and Spaceships, 7% Solution (self-released). Spacey, yes, but sincere--the inclusion of a freebie second disc (give one to your friends!) is a particularly inspired stroke.
I Hate These Songs, Dale Watson (Hightone Records). Watson's hard-core country albums are just too consistently good: You lose sight of what you're supposed to be comparing them to. Fortunately, a few seconds of "Indian Outlaw" usually re-establish your equilibrium and Watson's high place in the Texas pantheon.