Reba McEntire LOVE SOMEBODY

“Love Somebody” is Reba McEntire’s best album of the 21st century because it draws on her strengths: That is, subtly and powerfully interpreting substantial story songs about adult relationships set to contemporary country music.

At 60, the performer — she bills herself by her first name these days — remains a remarkable vocalist, capable of stunning ferocity and dramatic nuance. She’s one of the great traditional country singers of her time, but she prefers pushing herself to stay current. Always ambitious, she errs only when she tries to appeal to radio with material that’s too lightweight for her talent and maturity.

“Love Somebody” strikes a perfect blend, especially on songs like “She Got Drunk Last Night,” written by Brandy Clark and Shane McAnally, and the title song, co-written by Sam Hunt, which finds McEntire rising to a challenge of mixing tongue-twisting stanzas with a testifying chorus.

Other highlights include a duet with Jennifer Nettles on “Enough,” dealing with a partner who leaves her feeling like she’s not worth the effort he puts into the rest of his life, and the emotional ballad “Just Like Them Horses,” a tribute to her rodeo champion father, written by friends Liz Hengber and Tommy Lee James.

With “Love Somebody,” McEntire proves she still has far too much to say to rest on her laurels.

Michael McCall

Bachman HEAVY BLUES

Where has THIS been for the past four decades?

Randy Bachman, who made classic rock history with Bachman-Turner Overdrive and The Guess Who, has recorded his best album since 1976.

The name says it all: heavy blues, delivered with help from an all-star cast of guests, including Neil Young, Peter Frampton, Joe Bonamassa, Robert Randolph and Jeff Healey.

If this was 1975 and the radio still played rock, there might be a half-dozen hit singles on “Heavy Blues.” The opening track, “The Edge,” sounds like BTO playing a mashup of “You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet” and The Who’s “Won’t Get Fooled Again.”

“Ton of Bricks” hits the listener as advertised; “Little Girl Lost,” a daddy-never-loved-me, now-I’m-a-hooker song, features some memorable, instantly recognizable fuzz-tone guitar from Young; and “Confessing to the Devil” features posthumous licks from Healey from a long-ago unreleased session with Bachman.

The catchiest track on the album is “Wild Texas Ride,” featuring a boogie drum beat over raw guitars and enough cowbells to make even Will Ferrell happy. It’s really good to see Bachman takin’ care of business again.

Wayne Parry

Calexico EDGE OF THE SUN

The ninth studio album from Tucson, Arizona-based Calexico is a sonic road trip through the American Southwest, the roots of rock ‘n’ roll, the music of Mexico and more.

There has always been a strong Latin strand to the band’s country-tinged indie rock. “Edge of the Sun” is partly inspired by time spent in Mexico City, so cumbia and mariachi sounds mix with guitar and pedal steel. And that’s not all — there are dollops of everything from folk to electronica here, mixed together with verve and culture-crossing curiosity.

Core Calexicans Joey Burns — on vocals and guitar — and multi-instrumentalist John Convertino are joined by guests including Iron & Wine, Neko Case, Ben Bridwell from Band of Horses, Mexican singer Carla Morrison, Spanish musician Amparo Sanchez and members of the Greek group Takim.

The opener “Falling From the Sky” is a soaraway single, buoyed by jaunty trumpets. From there the album crisscrosses borders and genres: “Bullets and Rocks” is a moodily entrancing meditation on migration, while “When the Angels Played” is a harmonica-soaked country charmer about loving and leaving.

Mexican sounds assert themselves on “Cumbia de Donde,” the instrumental “Coyoacan” and the brooding “Beneath the City of Dreams,” then it’s back to the U.S. heartland with “Woodshed Waltz.”

Through it all, Burns’ weathered, wistful voice lends the songs a sense of restless yearning. At its best, the music on “Edge of the Sun” is retro, modern and timeless. For evidence, check out “Tapping on the Line,” which blends an antique-sounding drum machine with a plaintive vocal that channels Edward Snowden-era concerns about surveillance.

Jill Lawless