Picks and Pans Main: Music

updated 08/30/2010 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 08/30/2010 AT 01:00 AM EDT

John Mellencamp

No Better Than This |

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CRITIC'S CHOICE

ROOTS MUSIC

If you're looking to nail roots-music authenticity, there's no producer better than T Bone Burnett, the man behind Grammy winners like the O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack and Raising Sand by Robert Plant and Alison Krauss. This time it's John Mellencamp who benefits from Burnett's magic touch on a vintage-sounding set that shows just how far the heartland rocker has come from his days as John Cougar. Exploring traditional country, blues and folk territory, these originals were recorded in mono at some historic locations using a 1955 tape recorder and just one microphone. The inspired results include the uplifting shuffle "Save Some Time to Dream," which will conjure visions of a simpler, long-gone era.

Trace Adkins

Cowboy's Back in Town |

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COUNTRY

Trace Adkins is still one of the rowdiest cowboys around on honky-tonkish tracks like "Hold My Beer" that'll go down well with a few brewskis. He brings a hillbilly humor to the party that's best on "Hell, I Can Do That," which pokes fun at Matthew McConaughey. But don't look for anything too deep going on under his Stetson.

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