Beautiful Africa, by Rokia Traoré

Malian singer, songwriter, and guitarist Rokia Traoré has long blended West African music with occidental influences. Her fifth album, produced by P. J. Harvey collaborator John Parish, features the strongest rock element yet.


The Battle Hymn of the Republic, by John Stauffer and Benjamin Soskis

Fall books

How did Julia Ward Howe’s pro–federal Union and abolitionist-inspired “Battle Hymn of the Republic” become the most recognizable American anthem of the 20th century? Why is it embraced by liberals and conservatives, radicals and businesspeople, whites, blacks and beyond?

Deep Roots, by Steven Curtis Chapman

This album variously rolls with the calming reassurance of a Dixie river and chugs along like a steam engine. Built around hymns and southern gospel standards, Deep Roots oozes front porch intimacy, its acoustic instruments and vocal harmonies unadorned by studio trickery.