Bonnie Raitt - Souls Alike (Capitol): Forget Hillary in 2008. Bonnie Raitt for president! Let's check her qualifications: She's got the required famous father (Broadway star John Raitt), and she knows how to delegate (she always taps stellar musicians and songwriters). She's shown cross-generational appeal, and whose hair is more presidential? On top of all of that, she consistently delivers - the proof is embedded in her deeply satisfying new record. The post- breakup lament of "I Don't Want Anything to Change" firmly tugs the heart and the rollicking "Trinkets" happily transports us to the pre-Katrina streets of the Big Easy. Slippery funk, sweet soul for miles, and her warm, imaginative production make this a worthy candidate for one of her best ever. Now if there's anybody who could rebuild New Orleans....
- John Kehe
Trisha Yearwood - Jasper County (MCA Nashville): The Bible-belt diva comes back strong after a four-year hiatus, blending the ballads for which she is known with some sultry blues ("Sweet Love") and certified boot-tappers ("Baby Don't You Let Go"). With Trisha, of course, it's all about that voice, as nuanced and wide-ranging as any of country's greats. "Standing Out in A Crowd" achingly recalls a wallflower's schoolgirl days. The pure-country "Georgia Rain" evokes the "Jasper County clay" of her Georgia youth. Harmonizers on the CD include fiancé Garth Brooks and Beth Nielsen Chapman. All this time after her 1991 hit "She's In Love with the Boy," Yearwood still leaves the songwriting to others. But she delivers a peach-sweet tribute to the folks back home.
- Clayton Collins