The Secret Sisters – You Don’t Own Me Any More: Love is not possession.

2017_TheSecretSisters_YouDontOwnMeAnymoreArtist: The Secret Sisters
Album: You Don’t Own Me Anymore
Year: 2017
Grade: B-

In Brief: A solid third effort from the Alabama country/folk duo. It doesn’t quite have the same edge as Put Your Needle Down, and as a result the songs can feel a bit samey after a while, but I get that pop/rock crossover appeal might not have been the intent here.

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Ed Sheeran – ÷: Appealing to the Lowest Common Denominator?

2017_EdSheeran_DivideArtist: Ed Sheeran
Album: ÷
Year: 2017
Grade: B-

In Brief: Ed takes his music in a few new directions that I appreciate, and occasionally he shows some real wit in the songwriting department. But so much of this album feels calculated to clone the success of past singles and to pander to as wide an audience as possible. It drags down an otherwise enjoyable experience.

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John Paul White – Beulah: There’s always a second time around.

2016_JohnPaulWhite_BeulahArtist: John Paul White
Album: Beulah
Year: 2016
Grade: B-

In Brief: White continues to demonstrate strong songwriting chops as a solo artist, though the bare-bones folk sound sometimes undersells that skill. A few more full-bodied, up-tempo tracks help, but since I know him as the guy from the Civil Wars, I can’t help but think that he shines brightest when he has another vocalist in the mix to play off of.

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Out of the Grey – A Little Light Left: Let the music span the distance.

2015_OutoftheGrey_ALittleLightLeftArtist: Out of the Grey
Album: A Little Light Left
Year: 2015
Grade: B

In Brief: While it’s quite different from the glossy, catchy and quirky pop tunes of their 90s heyday, Out of the Grey has created a mellow and mostly acoustic record that feels authentic to who they are now. It’s not so much a comeback as it is a welcome visit from old friends you haven’t seen in ages.

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Lauryn Peacock – Euphonia: It takes a lifetime to be a gentle man.

2015_LaurynPeacock_EuphoniaArtist: Lauryn Peacock
Album: Euphonia
Year: 2015
Grade: B-

In Brief: Lauryn is an intriguing singer/songwriter with a gift for sprawling, thoughtful, and slightly whimsical baroque pop arrangements. This album’s only real flaw is a few excessively bloated tracks that create the illusion of the album having more content than it actually does.

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Andrew Peterson – The Burning Edge of Dawn: It’s only when the straight line breaks and heals a little crooked that you ever see the grace.

2015_AndrewPeterson_TheBurningEdgeofDawnArtist: Andrew Peterson
Album: The Burning Edge of Dawn
Year: 2015
Grade: B

In Brief: While not as bold of a musical statement as Light For the Lost Boy, it’s one of Peterson’s most honest and transparent records yet, a confessional and comforting work to help you get through those “dark nights of the soul”.

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Joy Williams – Venus: Mars could not be reached for comment.

2015_JoyWilliams_VenusArtist: Joy Williams
Album: Venus
Year: 2015
Grade: B

In Brief: There’s a quiet strength to Venus that I find incredibly appealing. The Civil Wars are irreplaceable, and Williams is wise not to try, but her first full-length solo album in 10 years is still leaps and bounds ahead of her old CCM stuff.

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