Johnny Cash

American VI: Ain't No Grave |

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COUNTRY

Pulling a 2Pac, Johnny Cash is still releasing new music seven years after his death. His second posthumous album, following 2006's superior American V: A Hundred Highways, is the final (or so we think) installment in the series produced by Rick Rubin. The specter of death hangs heavily over this brief set, recorded in the months leading up to his passing (during which time he lost wife June Carter Cash). Cash defiantly confronts his mortality on the traditional "Ain't No Grave," while seeking salvation on Sheryl Crow's "Redemption Day." With his fragile, tentative delivery, the Man in Black is clearly a shadow of his former self, but he is still a powerful presence to the end.

DOWNLOAD THIS: "I Corinthians 15:55," the haunting lone Cash original

V.V. Brown

Travelling Like the Light |

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SOUL-POP

On her debut album, V.V. Brown takes you on a fun journey back to the '50s and '60s. From the surf guitar of the groovy opener, "Quick Fix," to the girl-group harmonies of the closing ballad, "Travelling Like the Light," it's a nostalgia trip that has both sass and soul. While Brown's retro moves can feel a little familiar, bringing to mind such other British acts as Amy Winehouse, Estelle and the Noisettes, she clearly has learned well from the old school.

DOWNLOAD THIS: "Leave!," a doo-woppy incitation to dump him

CRITIC'S CHOICE

Daniel Merriweather

Love & War |

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SOUL-POP

In 2007 Australia's Daniel Merriweather upstaged Amy Winehouse and Lily Allen as a featured vocalist on producer Mark Ronson's album Version. The retro-soulful singer gets his much-deserved close-up on the year's best debut (already a hit in the U.K., where it came out last June). With Ronson again behind the boards, Love & War at times feels like the male answer to Back to Black, while also conjuring up Paolo Nutini and the artist formerly known as Terence Trent D'Arby.

DOWNLOAD THIS: "Cigarettes," a nicotine-tinged saloon song

Allison Moorer

Crows |

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ALT-COUNTRY

"Fall down on me like a feather floating on a breeze," sings Allison Moorer, pretty much nailing the effect of her new CD in the opening line. With a soft, soothing beauty that sneaks up and wraps its wings around you, Crows is a rare bird, creating a mood that is sometimes more torch than twang.

DOWNLOAD THIS: "Still This Side of Gone," a heartbreaker of a ballad

FOR DOWNLOAD PICKS INFO, GO TO PEOPLE.COM/DOWNLOADTHIS

>• Benefiting New Orleans' Preservation Hall, this disc is a spicy gumbo with artists like Merle Haggard, Tom Waits and Angélique Kidjo (right) sitting in with the Preservation Hall Jazz Band.

>JULIANA HATFIELD

Peace & Love

On her 11th solo album, the singer-songwriter strips it down with folk-pop ditties that offer modest pleasures and simple messages, such as "Why Can't We Love Each Other."

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HOT CHIP

One Life Stand

This electronica outfit may make beats for plugged-in club kids, but synth-pop tracks like the title tune will also satisfy fans of the Pet Shop Boys.

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JAHEIM

Another Round

After the recent death of Teddy Pendergrass, Jaheim keeps alive the spirit of another dearly departed soul man—Luther Vandross—on his latest.

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MASSIVE ATTACK

Heligoland

The trip-hoppers enlist vocalists like Damon Albarn and Tricky collaborator Martina Topley-Bird. But for all the cool atmospherics, few songs stick.

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>MATISYAHU inspires on the Akon-assisted "One Day," which you may have heard in ads for the Vancouver Winter Games. $1.29 at iTunes.com.

ANGEL TAYLOR, currently a VH1 You Oughta Know artist, strums up a slice of folk-pop heaven on "Like You Do." $0.99 at rhapsody.com.

AVRIL LAVIGNE turns the looking glass inward on "Alice," a ballad from the Alice in Wonderland soundtrack, out March 2. $0.99 at amazon.com.

LUPE FIASCO shows poetic prowess on "I'm Beamin'," an electro-infused preview of the rapper's next CD Lasers. $1.29 at napster.com.

>• The rootsy singer, 28, is up for a Best Song Oscar for "The Weary Kind (Theme from Crazy Heart)" on March 7.

ON WORKING WITH JEFF BRIDGES

He's a great guitar player and singer. Didn't need much coaching. I hate to say he is just like the Dude [in The Big Lebowski]. But all the cool things about the Dude? That's Jeff.

ON GETTING HIS BAND, THE DEAD HORSES, SCREEN TIME

[Crazy Heart director] Scott Cooper wanted a band in the bowling-alley scene. I said, "Look no further. This band plays in bowling alleys all the time!"

ON WINNING THE GOLDEN GLOBE FOR BEST SONG

I was hanging out with Jeremy Renner from The Hurt Locker at the bar. Someone was like, "Wouldn't it be funny if you missed your [award]?" Then we looked up at the TV and saw ["Weary Kind" cowriter] T Bone Burnett walking to the stage. I just sat there and finished my beer.

>• Benefiting New Orleans' Preservation Hall, this disc is a spicy gumbo with artists like Merle Haggard, Tom Waits and Angélique Kidjo (right) sitting in with the Preservation Hall Jazz Band.

>JULIANA HATFIELD

Peace & Love

On her 11th solo album, the singer-songwriter strips it down with folk-pop ditties that offer modest pleasures and simple messages, such as "Why Can't We Love Each Other."

[

bgwhite bgwhite   

]

HOT CHIP

One Life Stand

This electronica outfit may make beats for plugged-in club kids, but synth-pop tracks like the title tune will also satisfy fans of the Pet Shop Boys.

[

bgwhite bgwhite bgwhite  

]

JAHEIM

Another Round

After the recent death of Teddy Pendergrass, Jaheim keeps alive the spirit of another dearly departed soul man—Luther Vandross—on his latest.

[

bgwhite bgwhite bgwhite  

]

MASSIVE ATTACK

Heligoland

The trip-hoppers enlist vocalists like Damon Albarn and Tricky collaborator Martina Topley-Bird. But for all the cool atmospherics, few songs stick.

[

bgwhite bgwhite   

]

>MATISYAHU inspires on the Akon-assisted "One Day," which you may have heard in ads for the Vancouver Winter Games. $1.29 at iTunes.com.

ANGEL TAYLOR, currently a VH1 You Oughta Know artist, strums up a slice of folk-pop heaven on "Like You Do." $0.99 at rhapsody.com.

AVRIL LAVIGNE turns the looking glass inward on "Alice," a ballad from the Alice in Wonderland soundtrack, out March 2. $0.99 at amazon.com.

LUPE FIASCO shows poetic prowess on "I'm Beamin'," an electro-infused preview of the rapper's next CD Lasers. $1.29 at napster.com.

>• The rootsy singer, 28, is up for a Best Song Oscar for "The Weary Kind (Theme from Crazy Heart)" on March 7.

ON WORKING WITH JEFF BRIDGES

He's a great guitar player and singer. Didn't need much coaching. I hate to say he is just like the Dude [in The Big Lebowski]. But all the cool things about the Dude? That's Jeff.

ON GETTING HIS BAND, THE DEAD HORSES, SCREEN TIME

[Crazy Heart director] Scott Cooper wanted a band in the bowling-alley scene. I said, "Look no further. This band plays in bowling alleys all the time!"

ON WINNING THE GOLDEN GLOBE FOR BEST SONG

I was hanging out with Jeremy Renner from The Hurt Locker at the bar. Someone was like, "Wouldn't it be funny if you missed your [award]?" Then we looked up at the TV and saw ["Weary Kind" cowriter] T Bone Burnett walking to the stage. I just sat there and finished my beer.