Robert Plant

Band of Joy |

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ROOTS MUSIC

There's nothing like winning six Grammys to make a man-even a rock god like Robert Plant-change his musical perspective. That's clearly what has happened to the Led Zep leader after 2007's Raising Sand, his Grammy-conquering collaboration with Alison Krauss. On Band of Joy-which takes its title from an early Plant group-he again shows a whole lotta love for American roots music. With Raising Sand player Buddy Miller serving as coproducer, these eclectic covers-including Low's "Silver Rider" and "Monkey," two haunting highlights featuring Patty Griffin-are more Grammy bait.

CRITIC'S CHOICE

Mavis Staples

You Are Not Alone |

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GOSPEL/R&B

You know something serious is up when Mavis Staples is playing Lollapalooza. The 71-year-old R&B-gospel great was joined by Wilco's Jeff Tweedy during her performance at the Chicago music festival last month, but the unlikely pair had already teamed up to make this inspired album of spirituals and soul-sanctified covers. With Tweedy keeping it real authentic behind the boards, Staples takes it to church on traditionals, two songs from dad Pops Staples and others by John Fogerty and Randy Newman. Tweedy also contributes two originals, including the title track, on which Staples provides the comfort of a higher power.

Weezer

Hurley |

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PUNK-POP

Leave it to Weezer to name an album after the lovable Lost character played by Jorge Garcia. They're the kind of geeks who'd theorize incessantly about what was really going on in that hatch. But there's nothing on the band's latest-coming just 10 months after Raditude-that approaches the complexities of Lost. This is straight-ahead punk-pop-catchy, sometimes cheeky, but hardly challenging. Rather than ratcheting up their ambitions like, say, Green Day, Rivers Cuomo and crew are content channeling their inner adolescent on tracks like "Trainwrecks" and the nostalgic single "Memories." Still, Hurley would probably dig it.

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WILLOW SMITH

Brother Jaden may be a box-office star, but the 9-year-old daughter of Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith has been signed to Jay-Z's Roc Nation with her sassy new single "Whip My Hair."

RYAN BINGHAM & THE DEAD HORSES

Junky Star

Coming off his Oscar for "The Weary Kind (Theme from Crazy Heart)," Bingham ventures into more rich alt-country terrain with producer T Bone Burnett.

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USHER

Versus

From "Hot Tottie," a rubbery hip-hop groove, to the sexy, Prince-esque slow jam "Lay You Down," Usher gives fans more reason to go "OMG" on this nine-song EP.

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FANTASIA

Back to Me

After her recent suicide attempt, Fantasia emerges with her best album yet. On old-schoolish songs like "Bittersweet," she digs deep with raspy-voiced soul.

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JOHN MELLENCAMP

No Better Than This

This vintage-sounding set, exploring traditional country, blues and folk, shows how far the heartland rocker has come from his John Cougar days.

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KINGS OF LEON come rocking back with the electric "Radioactive," from the band's fifth studio set, Come Around Sundown, due Oct. 19. $0.99 at amazon.com.

MICHELLE BRANCH tackles life's ups and downs on "Crazy Ride," an acoustic-guitar-laced ballad from her EP Everything Comes and Goes. $1.29 at napster.com.

GOOD CHARLOTTE cranks up the punk-pop fun on "Like It's Her Birthday," from Cardiology, due Nov. 2. $1.29 at rhapsody.com.

KERI HILSON plays the fed-up woman on "Breaking Point," a Timbaland production from this fall's No Boys Allowed. $1.29 at zune.net.