Spectified, by Dave Specter

It's fashionable for 21st-century blues guitarists to blow you away with fretboard pyrotechnics. But Dave Specter harkens to the previous century, when players like Steve Cropper and B. B. King moved listeners with a handful of heartfelt notes. The horns, smoky organ and sublime guitar on "Stick to the Hip" suggest Booker T.

The Mystery and the Hum, by Peter Himmelman

Peter Himmelman's gifts for melody, lyrical poignancy and spiritual depth are rare among singer-songwriters. He can also rock: "Motel Room in Davenport" chugs like a freight train, while "Good Luck Charm" mixes white-boy rapping and an anvil-heavy beat into a solid groove.

Refreshed by Fire, by Shekinah Glory Ministry

Like many modern gospel records, this double disc was recorded live. But it be­gins nontraditionally: "Reclaim Your Moun­­tain" builds tension by repeating a two-note phrase for almost four minutes before spiraling into a Holy Spirit call. "Prophecy" kicks off with a tom-tom solo and then unfurls a Latin-tinged rhythm that frames fervent, improvised prayer.

The Fakeout, the Tease and the Breather, by Canasta

It takes guts to kick off an album with a seven-minute track, but Canasta re­wards the listener who hangs in there. "Becoming You" unfolds with patient pop majesty, recalling Belle & Sebastian or the Decemberists as it evokes a warm spring morning shaking off the frost.

Small Source of Comfort, by Bruce Cockburn

Bruce Cockburn is a singer-songwriter of extraordinary perception and wit.