As January draws to a close, bringing with it some of the slowest sales weeks we’ve seen since the 1991 dawn of the Nielsen SoundScan era, we end the month with a slate of tasty critical releases. However, none are likely to stoke the chart fires. Jan. 25 brings new sets from Rock & Roll Hall of Famer Wanda Jackson (with a little help from Jack White), Corrine Bailey Rae, Talib Kweli, Iron and Wine and Gang of Four’s first set in 14 years.
Corinne Bailey Rae, “The Love EP” (Capitol): British songstress is all about amore on this five-song covers set that includes her takes on Prince’s “I Wanna Be Your Lover,” Wings’ “My Love” and first single, “Is This Love,” the Bob Marley song, not the Whitesnake one.
Carolina Chocolate Drops, “Carolina Chocolate Drops/Luminescent Orchestrii” (Nonesuch): North Carolina string band combined with the New York City gypsy outfit Luminescent Orchestrii for this 4-song EP.
Cold War Kids, “Mine Is Yours” (Downtown): Third set from Long Beach, Calif.-based band moves it further into the mainstream and away from its quirky beginnings as they work with Jacquire King, best known for producing Kings of Leon and Modest Mouse.
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The Gaddabouts, “The Gaddabouts” (racecarLOTTA/Redeye): Only two weeks after the release of Edie Brickell’s solo album, she returns as part of The Gaddabout, which includes Andy Fairweather Low, Pino Palladino and drummer Steve Gadd (guess how the band got its name). Brickell wrote most of the material, but a number of songs were written with the band and recorded the same day.
Gang of Four, “Content” (Yep Roc): First album from British punk punk band in 14 years includes founding members Jon King and Andy Gill. The U.K.’s Telegraph newspaper calls “Content” “their best album since the late-‘70s, packed with savagely danceable riffs.”
Iron & Wine, “Kiss Each Other Clean” (Warner): Sam Beam’s first album for Warner Bros. after leaving Sub Pop and his fourth overall takes on society’s ills with a loving eye, making us wish we could go live in his beard. There’s room for all of us.
Wanda Jackson, “The Party Ain’t Over” (Third Man/Nonesuch): The Queen of Rockabilly may be 73, but age is just a number for Jackson. Jack White produced this set of covers the includes Amy Winehouse’s “You Know I’m No Good.
Talib Kweli, “Gutter Rainbows” (Talibra): Brooklyn MC’s first album since 2007’s “Eardrum” leads off with excellent first single, “Cold Rain,” as well as tracks featuring his frequent collaborator Jean Grae.
Amos Lee, “Mission Bell” (Blue Note): Philadelphia singer/songwriter Lee’s fourth Blue Note set nicely combines his love of jazz, folk and R&B and he’s brought some top-notch guests along: Lucinda Williams, Willie Nelson and Iron & Wine’s Sam Beam.