Natalie Maines, Mother (Columbia). Since falling out with the Republican Right – and by extension, much of the country music fan base – following her comments regarding George W. Bush and the Iraq War, Natalie Maines has lived with the courage of her convictions. She essentially turned her back on the Dixie Chicks and modern country music, and turned toward a more open-ended interpretation of pop and rock. The result of this transformation can be heard loud and clear with her Columbia solo debut “Mother.” The album takes its name from the visceral Roger Waters tune from Pink Floyd’s “The Wall,” and Maines fully inhabits the moral outrage at the tune’s heart. Under the auspices of producer, co-writer and multi-instrumentalist Ben Harper, Maines displays the full range of her incredibly powerful voice across the span of some astutely selected covers – Eddie Vedder’s “Without You,” a handful of Harper co-writes, a sublime interpretation of Jeff Buckley’s “Lover, You Should’ve Come Over” among them. As virtuosic as her singing is, it’s her complete mastery of emotional nuance and phrasing – from in-your-face moral outrage to heart-rending vulnerability – that makes Maines such an extraordinary singer. The Dixie Chicks were no joke, but “Mother” is certainly the crowning achievement in Maines’ career to date. 3½ stars (Jeff Miers)


Nashville: The Music of Nashville, Season 1 Volume 2 (Big Machine). What “Nashville” had from the first second it went on the ABC network that no other TV series about country music was ever likely to have was the venerable T. Bone Burnett as the man in charge of the show’s music. That will happen when Burnett’s wife, screenwriter Callie Khouri (“Thelma and Louise”), is the creator of the series and the guiding force behind it. The result has been rather startling good music on its episodes which are – no surprise – then collected in disc form. Burnett – who produced the legendary “O! Brother Where Art Thou?” soundtrack – produced seven of the 10 tracks here, which means that there was no way that the likes of Hayden Panettiere and Connie Britton were going to be left out there alone in a make-believe country music universe without sounding as if they belong there completely. And so they do. Songs include Lucinda Williams’ “Bitter Memory” performed by Britton, David Poe’s “Gun for a Mouth” performed by Sam Palladio and Patty Griffin’s “We Are Water” performed by Panettiere. Whatever you feel about the show’s soapy plot, you couldn’t possibly be anything but impressed by this. 3½ stars (Jeff Simon)


Ravi Shankar, “The Living Room Sessions Part Two” (East Meets West). So much time since the ’60s has been spent using the great Indian instrument the sitar as sonic color in bad movies and TV shows (indicative of hippiedom in another time and place) that the magic of Indian classical music in pure form was almost lost forever to Americans. Wherever that was a danger, there was always Ravi Shankar’s residence in Encinitas, Calif., to prevent it. In October 2011, Shankar, at the age of 91, ended a tour and invited his longtime tabla accompanist Tanmoy Bose to an informal recording session in his living room. According to Shankar’s widow, Sukanya Shankar, she knew after the tour “he had to do something or else he would fall sick.” The music that the aged master recorded with his accompanying tabla master is extraordinary – a world away from Indian music as mere throwaway sonic seasoning. Accompanying them on droning treble and bass tanpuras are Shankar’s pupils Kenji Ota and Barry Phillips. Shankar died a little over a year after this music was recorded. It’s an exceptional memorial to a man who brought his music to the West and had an enormous influence on everyone from John Coltrane to George Harrison. 4 stars (J.S.)

Pop Jazz

Steve Tyrell, “The Songs of Sammy Cahn” (Concord). Well, sure, it might be a bit of an exaggeration to say that without the lyrics of Sammy Cahn, there’d have been no Rat Pack. On the other hand, you can’t imagine Frank Sinatra’s latter-day career without the lyrics Cahn wrote for “The Tender Trap,” “All the Way” and “Come Fly with Me.” Nor would Dean Martin’s career have been anywhere near the same if Cahn hadn’t provided the words to the consummate swinger of Martin’s latter-day career “Ain’t That a Kick in the Head.” Steve Tyrell is no Frank Sinatra or Dean Martin, true, but when it comes to the longtime producer and singer giving his all to the music of Sammy Cahn, it’s pure delight. Imagine a kind of Vegas version of Mac Rebennack with pure heart where the Michael Bublés of this world have legato urbanity. It’s Cahn’s centennial, which is why Tyrell is singing “It’s Magic,” “Teach Me Tonight,” “The Second Time Around,” “Call Me Irresponsible” “I Fall in Love Too Easily” and other classics of the highest-level Angeleno pop of its time. (The melodies of Jimmy Van Heusen – whom some say was Sinatra’s behavioral model – don’t hurt much either.) In an era where everyone is committing offenses against the Great American Songbook as a matter of course, Tyrell knows what he’s doing – thank heaven. 3½ stars (J.S.)


Michel Camilo, “What’s Up” (Okeh). Terrific solo piano disc from the Dominican-born jazz musician that goes all over the map, everything from what Camilo calls “my take on the perpetual polyrhythmic intricacies of ‘Take Five’ – as a personal nod of admiration and awe to the legacy of legendary master Dave Brubeck” to the title tune that sounds like a bit of musical gumbo for a New Orleans cakewalk. The standards – “Alone Together,” “Love for Sale” – are fine, and the originals do every bit of what Camilo says he’s doing here:“expressing my desire to explore the contrasts, of color, harmonic texture, rhythm, and nuances in jazz playing.” Translate that and what it means is that the Dominican Camilo, like the great Cuban jazz pianists (Gonzalo Rubalcaba, Chucho Valdes and his late father Bebe), is a pianist of powerful left hand that can’t help but connect his solo piano jazz to the original dance rhythms in “the place Congo.” Camilo’s solo piano music here dances and rhapsodizes both. One of the better things to come out of the 21st century reactivation of the Okeh label. 3½ stars (J.S.)


Christian McBride and Inside Straight, “People Music” (Mack Avenue). Commerce may be a bit of the problem here. Vibraphonist Warren Wolf is a superb soloist and himself a labelmate of bassist McBride at Mack Avenue discs. Unfortunately, as one of the lead ensemble voices of McBride’s band Inside Straight, he gives the band a bit of a chill in its ensemble sound that it can ill afford. (There’s a reason why jazz arrangers have so often eschewed the vibes as an ensemble instrument. This disc is it.) McBride is a great bass player and his saxophonist Steve Wilson is always welcome. The disc, though, isn’t really up to the level of the talent involved. 2½ stars (J.S.)


George Shearing and Don Thompson, “George Shearing at Home” (ProperNote). In the early ’80s Canadian jazz bassist Don Thompson was a member of George Shearing’s regular working band. There was, says Thompson now, “a beautiful grand piano in the living room” of Shearing’s New York apartment. The two musicians used to play together in Shearing’s living room until Thompson suggested they record a little bit of it “just for fun.” “We’d play a couple of tunes, have a cup of tea and play some more.” When they sent the results to an idiot record producer Shearing knew, he suggested it all needed some reverb, and Shearing just stuck it away in a drawer, where it remained for 30 years until its release now. It’s music of pure charm by a jazz pianist whose commercial success so often got in the way of music as simply beautiful as this. There are four solo tracks here including the sotto voce finale “Beautiful Love,” which Thompson calls “a one-time only flash of the genius of George Shearing. I’d never heard him play it before and he never played it again. I think it’s one of the most amazingly beautiful things I’ve ever heard.” 3½ stars (J.S.)


The Tallis Scholars, “Renaissance Radio” (Gimell, two discs). The subtitle for this is rather irresistible: “Sacred Music from the Renaissance Era for Celestial and Secular Radio.” The Tallis Scholars are proud of saying that when they formed in 1973 it wasn’t at all common to hear Renaissance music on classical radio. Things have certainly changed since so many groups of the late ’60s and early ’70s brought early music to massive attention (those of David Munrow, Noah Greenberg, etc.). It would be a wee bit flippant to call this two-disc set “The Renaissance’s Greatest Hits,” but when we’re talking about Allegri’s “Miserere” and the rest of this repertoire from Josquin Desprez, Orlande de Lassus, Carlo Gesualdo, Tomas Luis de Victoria, Thomas Tallis, William Byrd, etc., it does indicate how wonderful it is as a two-disc introduction to some of the most beautiful music ever written that had to wait hundreds of years for any currency. 3 stars (J.S.)