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Ruthie FosterThe Phenomenal Ruthie Foster— This album lives up to its name. Taking a turn in her work, she produces a fifth album that goes from her original acoustic framework and instead features contemporary soul and R&B with a big hitting list of players that join her on the album. Her voice is gritty and soulful and she’s been compared to everyone from good ol’ Janis to Aretha to Ella in her ability to produce a unique hard-hitting sound. She’ll be playing all over Austin and her album dropped Feb. 3.  At the end of the day, Foster lives up to the title, producing a sound that truly is superb. 5.5 McRiprock’s

 Jerks of GrassCome on Home—Straight out of New England this bluegrass/country ensemble has been performing for more than a decade.  Seven-time winner of Portland, Maine’s Best Roots/Acoustic Act they finally release their debut album.  Producer Jonathan Wyman helped the group keep a rootsy aesthetic throughout the weeklong recording process with all takes done live in the studio. Soulful country tunes “Come on Home” and “Something” showcase front man Kris Day’s ability for songwriting. Uptempo bluegrass classics like “Nellie Kane” and “Foggy Mountain Special” are combined with slower numbers like “Down in the Willow Garden” and “Tennessee Waltz” creating a diverse album.  4.5 McRiprock’s

 Astronauts of Antiquity—Rocket Science for Dummies—New York’s Astronauts of Antiquity are self-described as “urban-electro-organica.” The band employs a number of instruments ranging from the psychedelic Rhodes keyboard to eastern sitars and sarods played over the sounds of synths and creative designs. Comparable to the danceable Jamiroquai or the Brand New Heavies to retro soul like Erkah Badu this band ranges in sound and can’t be nailed down to one specific aesthetic. Blending elements of funk, electro, hip-hop and loungey jazz they seem to be all over the place with their musical sound.  4.5 McRiprock’s  

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