Picks and Pans Review: Recent Raves

updated 07/20/2009 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 07/20/2009 AT 01:00 AM EDT

>MAXWELL BLACKsummers'night The start of a trilogy, the neo-soul star's first disc since 2001 shows that his sensual sounds have been missed. Silky vocals and sumptuous arrangements (cue the horns) make this one exquisite listening experience.

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HOLLY WILLIAMS Here with Me The granddaughter of Hank Williams and the daughter of Hank Williams Jr. does her legacy proud on one of the year's best country albums. The highlight? "Three Days in Bed," a spare, aching ballad.

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PETE YORN Back & Fourth On a tight, 10-song set, Yorn delivers more perfect music for the morning after. With producer Mike Mogis (Bright Eyes), there's a rootsy vibe on Ryan Adamsesque tracks like the single "Don't Wanna Cry."

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DIANE BIRCH Bible Belt This Yankee gives the British blue-eyed-soul brigade serious competition on her debut. The bluesy-voiced singer-pianist harks back to the '60s on "Choo Choo" and the '70s on the Laura Nyro-like "Nothing but a Miracle."

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