ANGIE MCMAHON, Salt  (Dualtone): ****

The Australian singer-songwriter is self-assured enough not to crowd her smoky alto with anything but her electric guitar and spare drum fills for opening track “Play the Game.” That sets expectations for brooding atmosphere, which are then upended when drums turn stormy during the wary “Soon,” but surprise is built into this 11-track set. McMahon has a knack for composing strong, melodic pop songs that capture the duality of desire and defeatism with concise honesty, conveyed in shimmering tones. Highlights: the ingratiating “Slow Mover,” “Pasta” (“How am I simultaneously on top of someone’s pedestal/ And also underneath someone else’s shoe/ Oh, isn’t it a shame about the view”). RIYL Laura Jean Anderson, Phoebe Bridgers.

DELBERT MCCLINTON AND SELF-MADE MEN + DANA, Tall, Dark, & Handsome  (Hot Shot): ***½

Backed by the Self-Made Men from 2017’s “Prick of the Litter” plus saxophonist Dana Robbins, the Texas roadhouse king sounds like he’s having more fun than he’s known in years, energized by jazz and swing elements spicing his trademark blues-soul-rock mix. Grittily expressive, he dips into standard-style balladry (“Any Other Way”) and darker twists (“Temporarily Insane”), while his sly humor zings through “If I Hock My Guitar” and “No Chicken on the Bone,” the latter a sprightly showcase for pianist Kevin McKendree and violinist Stuart Duncan.

ZAC HARMON, Mississippi BarBQ (Catfood): **½

Teaming with Stevie Ray Vaughan producer Jim Gaines, the Mississippi native delivers meaty guitar riffs, sensuous grooves, and feel-good paeans to simple joys like companionship and, yes, barbecue. Sonically it resembles 2012’s “Music is Medicine.” Despite Harmon’s fretwork and smooth croon, LA blues fans who’ve followed him since 2003’s “Live at Babe & Ricky’s Inn” will likely prefer the forthright funkiness of “Make a Dollar Out of Fifteen Cents” to slick “Desperate Love.” At Central Avenue Jazz Festival in LA Sunday, July 28.


Alex Owen describes his songs as “weird country music,” which conjures images of beer-fueled shuffles and honky-tonking romance, but there’s more at work. Melodies and performances are ear-catching, and with characters searching for answers, balance, and connection, this unpretentious set turns out to be a timely response to an unsettling, uncertain world. Highlights: “Wild Animals” (“When did acting dumb stop being so much fun?”), “Lead Me On” with SieSie Benhoff, “Emmylou,” and the eerie, steel- and reverb-washed title track (“You are no Hemingway/ There’s no John Wayne, no matter what they say”).