Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers' Mojo (Warner Bros.)
Coming in June, Petty's first album of new material with the Heartbreakers in eight years is one of the best he's ever made with the band. When they break out these songs on tour this summer, you will hear them as they cut them — live, in their suburban-Los Angeles rehearsal space, often in first takes. The writing is up to that rigor too. Shoo-ins for the set list include the desperate velocity of "Running Man's Bible" and the psychedelic waltz "First Flash of Freedom," the latter with guitarist Mike Campbell combining his own lightning with the bright vintage slash of Duane Allman and the 1967 Jerry Garcia.
Texas Tornado: The Times & Music of Doug Sahm by Jan Reid with Shawn Sahm (University of Texas Press)
The first biography of the king of Texas rock is a rapid-fire account of a wild life. Sahm was a whirlwind on two legs, under a cowpuncher's hat, who met Hank Williams, invented Lone Star garage rock and hippie soul with the Sir Douglas Quintet and took the whole of Texas music — blues, country, gospel, conjunto — to the world, with a big grin and a preacher's fervor. Reid, in collaboration with Sahm's son Shawn (who appeared with his dad on the cover of Rolling Stone in 1968), also brings out the flawed impetuous man in all of that music. "Doug had a heavy frequency, and it was in his nerves," Bob Dylan said after Sahm's passing in 1999. The vibrations are here, in abundance.
Roky Erickson with Okkervil River's True Love Cast Out All Evil (Anti-)
A living Texas icon, Erickson — the vocal shaman of Sixties psychedelic pioneers the Thirteenth Floor Elevators — revisits songs he wrote more than three decades ago, during and after his ruinous spell in a mental institution, with the modern acid-rock thrust and folk-prayer comfort of producer Will Sheff and his band Okkervil River. At the two shows I saw Erickson and the band play at SXSW in March, he sang through the feedback and torment in "Goodbye Sweet Dreams" with bleating force and promised the peace of the title song with a survivor's assurance.
Timber Timbre's Timber Timbre (Arts and Crafts)
The first thing I thought I heard when I walked into this Canadian trio's opening set, for the Low Anthem at New York's Bowery Ballroom on April 14th, was the slow mourning-blues groan of original Fleetwood Mac singer-guitarist Peter Green. It was actually the voice of Timber Timbre's main man, Taylor Kirk, swallowing his despair in echo-laded rockabilly gulps against the harsh-treble notes he plucked from his guitar and the sandpapered shiver of Mika Posen's violin. It was a compelling unforgiving-country music, like Nick Cave's Bad Seeds stripped to a low-watt, high-anxiety power trio, and so good I bought this record at the merch table. Timber Timbre, the group's third album, issued in Canada last year, is not quite as bleak and feral as that show but thick with come-hither shadows and skeletal-blues suspense. It comes out here in July.