Andrew Greer
Angel Band: The Hymn Sessions
(MA'M Recordings)

When not writing music reviews for CT, Andrew Greer is a Nashville singer-songwriter, and on this sophomore album he surrounds himself with a gaggle of talented musicians (McCrary Sisters, Sandra McCracken, Ron Block, Cindy Morgan, Sonya Isaacs) to flesh out 11 hymns and an original. Greer has an unusual and versatile vibrato, pushing at times into jazzy territory, and other times evoking southern gospel. Angel Band skips across genres, from the down-home bluegrass of "Unclouded Day" to the orchestral "I Am Thine." Though the arrangements don't perfectly fit every tune, the stylistic diversity is welcome and nicely showcases Greer's voice.—Joel Oliphint

Don Byron's New Gospel Quintet
Love, Peace, and Soul
((Savoy Jazz)

Don Byron is a reed man and a bit of a jazz chameleon, his albums typically offering thematic tributes to the music he loves—standards, funk, even klezmer. He says gospel is the music that moves him most deeply, and one listen to this album confirms it. Byron's New Gospel Quintet, including soulful singer D. K. Dyson, has fervor and conviction to spare as they give spirited readings of Thomas A. Dorsey and Sister Rosetta Tharpe classics. They stretch out into pure, spontaneous jazz, but never lose sight of the material's gospel foundations.—Josh Hurst

Lyle Lovett
Release Me
(Curb/Lost Highway)

Lyle Lovett's superb songwriting and signature Texas roots anchor a collection that veers from gospel-rock-blues scorchers to bluegrass, country, and delicate acoustic ballads—and two oddly interspersed Christmas songs. Shakespeare would be proud of the devastatingly tragic "Dress of Laces," and "Understand You" plays as a patient, life-worn love song. Spirit and flesh stand in opposing corners—the gospel song "Isn't That So" co-mingled with "Girl with the Holiday Smile," which celebrates a liaison with a prostitute. It all wraps up with "Keep Us Steadfast," a sparsely beautiful hymn from the pen of Martin Luther.—Jeremy V. Jones

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