8 Keepers From Mail Call: Hacienda, Elvin Bishop, Janiva Magness, Etc.

Once again, the mailbox has overflowed like a backed-up sewer and Lonesome Onry and Mean has had to make some space decisions: Does this record go on the shelf (keep it, it's good, but I want to listen to something else now), in the Goodwill box (what were they thinking when they recorded this and, more importantly, why'd they send this damn thing to me?), or in the truck (I want to listen to this over and over)?

New albums by old favorites tend to get a thorough examination based on a certain level of previously built-up credibility. And, yes, in spite of the volume of music arriving constantly, an effort is made to listen to every CD that crosses the transom whether the artist is familiar or not, although admittedly the end of some of those isn't reached before the eject button gets a shove (sorry, Evie Ladin Band, it happened on the first Avett Brothers record too).

So here's a summary of some recent albums, released in the past couple of months, worth putting in the truck.

Davidson Hart Kingsbery, 2 Horses (Fin Records): Of course, one of the true joys of this job is opening a package from a total unknown and having it stick in LOM's cranium. We've been sort of off the alt-country for a while, but this album from Paris, Texas-born Seattleite Kingsbery was something that couldn't be ignored. "Stay Outta My Dreams" was the lyric that grabbed and held, the one that caused us to hit replay. But that's only one ear-friendly lyric on this stylish twanger; "Eyes of Green," "Stuck in Washington" and "NyQuil and Wine" show that Texas dirt doesn't wash off so easily. This guy bears watching.

Jack Saunders, A Real Good Place To Start (White Cat): One of Houston's true roots-music icons, Jack Saunders can be described perfectly in one word: Integrity.

Saunders has been at this so long he cuts straight to the chase. This isn't some over-thought, let's-play-at-folk-rock schtick that numerous young bands have, this is a full-grown pro matching sounds and words -- "I say goodbye to gravity when you come around" -- with all the precision of someone who's been at his craft 40 years. This one is Houston proud. (Note to Montrose hipsters: Put down your Shovels and Rope and go see this local treasure. Hip yourself. There's a reason some guys last on the scene forever.)

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Lil Ed and the Blues Imperials, Jump Start (Alligator): Let's face it: Alligator is the coolest blues label on the planet right now. Blind Pig, Delmark, and Dialtone are doing good work, but Alligator seems to be unable to miss, releasing a string of smokin' discs the past few months. Jump Start is a Chicago big-city booty-shaker from the first note, and Lil Ed's slide guitar is nothing but legit -- he's J.B Hutto's nephew.

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