* Johnny Cash — Bootleg Vol. II — From Memphis to Hollywood (Columbia/Legacy)
Five years after the release of Personal File comes another two-disc set of rare Johnny Cash material. Bootleg Vol. II — From Memphis to Hollywood (due Feb. 22) spans the prime years of the legend’s career, from his time with the Sun label through his first decade with Columbia. Casual Cash fans might not have a need for such a collection, but hard-core Man in Black followers should enjoy the wealth of demos along with material that was previously unreleased in the United States, such as “Shifting, Whispering Sands,” a duet with Lorne Greene.
* The Droves — Out of Herself (Eastern Spurs)
Often heavy but never metallic, explosive yet also very intimate, the dynamic and diverse debut by the Brooklyn, N.Y.-based band The Droves is packed with crafty twists and turns. There’s a controlled tension that weaves its way throughout the album, and with a stockpile of great songs (“Mackenzie,” “Plexi and Tandem,” “Sheila” and “Then They Were Three” among them), Out of Herself is an early best-of-2011 entry.
* John Shipe — Villain (Involushun Records)
There’s an old saying (and a great Willie Dixon-penned song) that says you can’t judge a book by its cover. Anyone who looks at the front of John Shipe‘s Villain (out now) and decides not to take the California-based singer/songwriter seriously would be making a serious mistake. Shipe shows a knack for clever lyrics, and he has a warm, pleasant vocal delivery that’s reminiscent of Michael Penn. Highlights include “Love Belongs to Everyone” and “What Right Do We Have to Fall in Love?”
— By Chris M. Junior