The Head and the Heart

This new band's sound has roots in the indie-folk scene, with its moody treatments of simple chord progressions and Americana rhythms. But the larger thread here is classic pop, and The Head and the Heart offers the complete feel-good package.

Hollywood Town Hall & Tomorrow the Green Grass, by the Jayhawks

Alt-country is typically traced to Uncle Tupelo, but the early '90s Jay­hawks made better records. Where Uncle Tupelo found scrappy affinities between traditional Americana and punk, the Jayhawks brought '70s country-rock to the alt-rock '90s.

Low Country Blues, by Gregg Allman

While the most tried-and-true way to say "I'm a serious American roots artist" is to book Emmylou Harris to sing backup, a close second is to get T-Bone Burnett to be your producer.