The Wallflowers enter musical middle age gracefully with their fifth release “Rebel, Sweetheart.”

Going on 15 years, the Jakob Dylan-led combo yet again delivers a nuanced, musically bright, and lyrically dense effort.

With an ever-shifting cadre of band members, the latest incarnation of the Wallflowers continues to sound more like Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band than anything the elder Dylan ever produced (you know the guy, goes by Bob).

But like father like son, Jakob Dylan isn’t above leaving listeners a little perplexed. Take the album’s title, for example. In promotional material, the young Dylan says that the “rebel” in the title is a verb, not a noun. Beyond that, he won’t explain what it means.

Listeners will find fertile lyrical ground to hunt for clues. The 12 tracks on “Rebel, Sweetheart” crackle with both musical and lyrical intensity. Particularly noteworthy is the opening track, “Days of Wonder,” which isn’t quite as full of optimism as the title may suggest.

What the album doesn’t appear to have are any breakout hits like those on 1996’s “Bringing Down the Horse,” which propelled the band to stardom. Hits mean little to most Wallflowers fans, but without them, the band is not likely to attract many new listeners with this one.

Scott Bauer, AP Writer
“Suit Yourself,” Shelby Lynne

“Suit Yourself,” country-soul singer-songwriter Shelby Lynne’s latest release, opens with Lynne giving her band instructions in her smooth Alabama drawl. She plays them the bridge a few times, asks for headphones, and offers encouragement. Seconds later, they launch into the catchy, upbeat “Go With It” and it’s like being right there in the studio.

One of the CD’s standouts, “I Cry Everday,” begins with Lynne cracking a joke and laughing. At first, the band sounds like it’s warming up and, at times, Lynne sounds like she’s improvising with the lyrics. Then there’s a heavy sigh, followed by an awkwardly long pause near the end of the song. (Lynne says it was midnight and they were all “pretty liquored up,” which may have had something to do with it.) But, all in all, it’s a groovy, sexy song and Lynne’s rich, buttery voice lets her pull it off.

Several tracks, including the touching “Johnny Met June” penned by Lynne the morning she heard of Johnny Cash’s death, are first takes Lynne recorded alone in her California home.

On “Iced Tea,” Lynne’s sweet and lovely lyrics are barely accompanied – only simple hand claps and a soft acoustic guitar are utilized for backup. “You’re the cornbread and iced tea of life,” she sings, and manages not to sound silly at all.

Kim Curtis, AP Writer
Various Artists, “Army of Me”

Inspired to do something in response to last year’s South Asian tsunami, Bjork invited musicians to submit their own remixes and cover versions of her popular track, “Army of Me,” for a charity album for UNICEF. Over 600 submissions came in. Bjork and the song’s co-writer, Graham Massey, chose twenty versions for the album. If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, than the various transformations offered up by this slew of eclectic artists must be representative of the sincerest forms of devotion.

One hasn’t heard “Army of Me” until you’ve heard it arranged for accordion, or done over like the soundtrack to a video game, or crooned to a bossa nova beat, or twanged out on a Hawaiian guitar, or … well, it has to be heard to be believed.

“Creepiest Version” award goes to Dr. Gunni, who does the whole track over a looping electronic bass line and a voice that sounds like Darth Vader’s perpetually evil cousin whispering directly into your ear. The German “Bersarinplatz Mix” is by far the funkiest, and nearly worth the album price all by itself.

Aimee Maude Sims, AP Writer


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