(Happy Jack Rock)
The Circus Devils have been around since 2001 and made six other albums. But they're touting Gringo as their first "acoustic" disc. But it in no way resembles your classic unplugged event. Instead, singer/lyricist Robert Pollard (of Guided by Voices fame) and Todd and Tim Tobias craft a dynamic chimera of sound. There's so much going on that it's better to visualize them as painters with a palette of colors rather than guys with six-string guitars. While tracks like "Witness Hill" and the sultry "Ships From Prison to Prison" sound like tunes you might hear on the radio, things switch quickly. "Arizona Blacktop Company" has a sample that sounds like electronic noise startling enough to make you think something's wrong with the recording. And "The Gasoline Drinkers" abandons the acoustic concept, relying upon electric instrumentation. — Liss Vickery
You could call it Southern comfort. Singer-songwriter Zach went to Atlanta to record this, his ninth album, with producer Nick Chawala (Collective Soul, Gym Class Heroes, Elton John), and the result is his best, most natural sounding effort. Zach's vocals have a distinctive, soulful quality on the snappy first tune, "A Way Through." That sensibility carries through the disc on songs like "Sky Is Falling," with its terrific organ riff, and "Runway," which builds in intensity as Zach sings, "I wanna climb/I wanna climb." The song could be a commercial country hit if it landed in the right hands. At times, the production gets a little too fancy. But What I Meant to Say shows just how much Zach has developed after a decade-long career. — Jeff Niesel
Zach performs at 7 p.m. Saturday, April 25, at Cuyahoga Falls High School (2300 4th St., Cuyahoga Falls). Tickets: $7.