Paul Kelly, Songs from the South, 1985-2019 (Cooking Vinyl) – Despite 35 years of pop-rock fame in Australia, Kelly is all but unknown here, so this two-disc greatest hits collection is long overdue. Dipping into this rich compilation is like discovering a new Top 40 Nuggets collection — virtually every one of 43 tracks is a keeper, sounding familiar yet brand new all at once.
Jason James, Seems Like Tears Ago (Melodyville) – After Ken Burns’ series on the history of country music, it’s nice to hear newcomers reach back to 1950s styles of the Williams or Tillis variety. Despite a couple earlier studio works, this rural Texas native retains rough edges that make tracks like “Achin’ Takin’ Place” more endearing.
Danny Brown, uknowhatimsayin? (Warp) – Brown is gaining respect for melding old-school hip-hop with a comedic flair, but this album has all the minor-key dread and sad violins that inhabited his 2016 Atrocity Exhibition. His poetry is on fire, and he relies on ace collaborators like Run the Jewels and JPEGMAFIA, but Brown displays neither the sardonic wit of a Quelle Chris, nor the occasional glimmers of hope of a J. Cole.