ELIZA GILKYSON, 2020

(Red House): ****

In case the title’s too subtle, the Pasadena-raised, Austin-based singer-songwriter positions herself in protest folk tradition with covers of Bob Dylan, Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie (adapting the latter’s 1952 letter excoriating landlord Fred Trump’s racist policies into the deceptively sweet “Beach Haven”). But it’s Gilkyson’s unifying anthems “We Are Not Alone” (composed with Robert McPeek) and “Promises to Keep” that achieve transcendence. “There is comfort in our voices/ Reminding us of all that we hold dear/ We are not alone,” she vows over Mike Hardwick’s fiery guitar and a swelling choir. Amen. Elizagilkyson.com

THUNDERCAT, It Is What It Is (Brainfeeder): ***

Stephen Bruner’s loss-informed fourth Thundercat album arrives as society’s fumbling toward acceptance of massive uncertainty. Thus funk confections “Black Qualls” (featuring Slave drummer Steve Arrington and Childish Gambino) and “How Sway” translate as bass-popping prescriptions for relief from grief and isolation, and the silky R&B crooning of “Dragonball Durag” impresses more as trippy, balm-like dream than romance. Everything feels surreal (notably “Interstellar Love,” achieving liftoff via Kamasi Washington’s sax solo). The guitar-centered title track (“So many things I wanna say”) allows space for genuine emotion Bruner mostly evades; more such focus is needed. thundercat.bandcamp.com/album/it-is-what-it-is

JAMES ELKINGTON, Ever-Roving Eye (Paradise of Bachelors): ***½

If you’re a Bert Jansch/Richard Thompson fan, bend an ear Elkington’s way. Long based in Chicago, the veteran British guitarist expands beyond the fingerpicking of 2017’s “Wintres Woma” for his second foray as frontman; standouts “Nowhere Time,” “Sleeping Me Awake,” and the psychedelic title track benefit from bassist Nick Macri and drummer Spencer Tweedy’s rhythmic drive and guest string and woodwind players. Elkington’s guitar notes sparkle in clean arrangements, and he compensates for his limited baritone by doing more with less vocally. His guitar’s the thing; its expressive tones feel pensive and timely. jameselkington.com

WILL SEXTON, Don’t Walk With the Darkness (Big Legal Mess/Fat Possum): ***

Veteran sideman for the likes of Roky Erickson, Doug Sahm and Stevie Ray Vaughan, the Texas guitarist swapped Austin dust for Memphis grease, a geographic shift musically reflected in his material and backing players. Venerated New Orleans roots-rockers the Iguanas comfortably navigate Sexton’s country-R&B-gospel mix, given luster by harmonies from Memphis soul queen Susan Marshall and the Barnes Brothers. The music ingratiates with earthy, heartfelt familiarity; imagine a road-seasoned bar band invoking ’60s blues- and psych-rock with the title track, or dancing cheek-to-cheek as “Witness” and the horn- and steel-gilded “Fell in Straight View” spiral up from a jukebox. biglegalmessrecords.com