Picks and Pans Review: Recent Raves

updated 12/19/2005 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 12/19/2005 AT 01:00 AM EST

John Mayer Trio, Try! John Mayer Trio Live in Concert
The singer-songwriter and guitarist reveals surprising new blues, funk and jazz colors on this exciting live disc from his side project. He gets his groove going with seven strong new songs.

Merle Haggard, Chicago Wind
Despite kicking around for 40 years, Haggard sounds fresh and enthusiastic; he's still coming up with engaging tunes to wrap that warm, musical baritone around.

The Darkness, One Way Ticket to Hell...
And Back With pomp and power chords, this retro-'80s hair-metal band pumps out hook-heavy, arena-ready rockers. Buckle up, because this is one wild, thrilling ride.

Anthony Hamilton, Ain't Nobody Worryin'
Just under the wire for 2005, the southern-fried soul man delivers the R&B album of the year. The title track is an instant classic.

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