Brian Blade

Mama Rosa  (Verve Forecast)

Brian Blade has earned considerable acclaim as the drummer and bandleader of the celebrated jazz group the Fellowship Band. With Mama Rosa, however, he breaks from the Fellowship, and indeed, from jazz itself, picking up a guitar for a mellow singer-songwriter set that touches on gospel and R&B. It's a bit on the sleepy side, but Blade's songs—which celebrate faith, family, and simplicity—are inspiring and full of grace. Daniel Lanois guests. —Josh Hurst


Which Way to Dublin Town  (independent)

Three young siblings make up this Ohio band, whose worshipful tunes blend a healthy serving of Celtic with a touch of bluegrass. Anchored by two harps and a hammered dulcimer, and sprinkled with mandolin, fiddle, and Irish flute, Seasons brings a lovely mix of instrumental (ranging from sprightly jigs to contemplative lullabies) and vocal arrangements to these 17 outstanding tracks. (More at —Mark Moring

Madeleine Peyroux

Bare Bones  (Rounder)

Known for her uncanny Billie Holiday impersonations, Madeleine Peyroux returns with an album that's as much singer-songwriter folk as jazz. The songs—many of which Peyroux says were inspired by a Buddhist nun's book—form a loose narrative cycle, with the artist reflecting on her own search for love and truth. In the title cut, she confesses to not understanding the gospel, but later tracks find her looking to divine grace and wrestling with hard, soul-searching questions. —Josh Hurst


Live in London  (Open Sky)

On a 1988 trip to the "Holy Island" Lindisfarne, David Fitzgerald wrote, "I was challenged by the lives of these early saints and our 1980s materialistic interpretation of Christianity." He then formed the Celtic band Iona, a U.K. group that recently celebrated its 20th anniversary with this double-disc live album. Its highlights include a ten-minute jam of "Woven Cord" and songs showcasing indigenous instruments and Joanne Hogg's soothing vocals. —Andy Argyrakis

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