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Now Hear This

Others will find Lucas' affirming wordplay sung in an Art Garfunkel-meets-Graham Nash register the touchstone that allows entry to Lucas' world of spiritual quest. Lyrically, Lucas' tunes hinge on his search for purpose in an overall Christian context. He manages to pull this off without heavy-handed preaching, but some of his lyrical images of prayers in flight or voices ascending the throne will strike some more vividly than others. This quibble aside, as a worthy artistic creation, "Light" is a pure and fragile testament to the common humanity that peaceful and harmonious music finds in us all. In times like these, I'll take that anytime. -- Ames Arnold

Regan "Coming or Going?" (Live!)

As these 11 new tunes bear witness, Regan continues to mature in striking ways as she heads down her powerful and personal artistic path. As a singer, she is as exciting and dynamic a vocalist as any young rock-pop talent on the scene today. Her songwriting gains more clarity with each effort, and her overall artistic vision on "Coming" is more focused, coherent and accessible without missing the creative freedom this musical chameleon has always cherished. Blessed with a fine lineup of supportive players and unerring production help from Wayne Pooley and Doug Derryberry, Regan is free to soar passionately into her tunes of love and dreams. "Dying a Fool" opens the set, turning on smart wordplay and the singer's supple voice. The first single "Rollin'" is powered by some great keyboards and features one of the catchiest verse-hooks these ears have heard in a while. The minor key energy of "Carry On" echoes an age-old message but, despite moods of disarray and uncertainty, Regan opts for strength over self-pity. The heartbroken, heart-mended and, damn it, heartbroken again cycle is simply and honestly portrayed in the lost and beautiful "1001." Recorded primarily in a home studio wrapped in a self-admitted "good vibe," Regan said recently she is proud of her latest. Her confidence is rightly placed. Set for release July 2, "Coming" is a lovely and rocking signpost pointing to a long and successful career. -- Ames Arnold

J Rawls "Kid Get Hip" (Iron Compass)

Just observing John Majer explains a lot about the music of his band the J Rawls. When he gets excited (which is just about always) and talks like he doesn't understand the concepts of periods and commas, there's no mistaking that the large man ranting before you is the energetic force behind the exuberant rock music on the J Rawls' new album, "Kid Get Hip."

The singer and guitarist, Majer (a main figure in the now defunct Lazycain), has created a group that operates in the indie-rock scene, yet sounds more like a contemporary reincarnation of an old rock 'n' roll band. Songs like "Tools you use," "Ordinary Day" and the title track have the finger-snapping, gum-chewing, pub-rock feel of early Elvis Costello.

The band takes a couple of laid-back breaks with "Simple is Simply Done" and "Lose that Feeling," but these songs sound like indie-rock conventions, their tone a stretch for the chill-challenged frontman.

Majer keeps the energy high for the rest of the album. He'll need some help with his lyrics if he ever wants them to be taken seriously, but the music backing them is for the most part solid. The guitar playing is expert, and the way Majer uses elements like old-fashioned backing vocals and keyboards makes "Kid Get Hip" sound both retro and original. -- Wayne Melton

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