The friends of folk singer Sally Spring are not only loyal; they make up a dazzling group of rock icons spanning three decades. Her latest release, Mockingbird, was produced by Chris Stamey (dBs) and features Gene Parsons (Byrds), Fred Smith (Television), Marshall Crenshaw, and Caitlin Cary (Whiskeytown), among others. Spring's charming voice and introspective writing haven't changed since her late-'70s gigs in Los Angeles, where she hobnobbed with the Beach Boys and Mama Cass. Now back in her native North Carolina, Spring has added a sturdy rhythm section, finding newfound grit for her subtle melodies. Standout cuts include a lovely cover of the Gram Parsons chestnut "Hickory Wind" and Spring originals "Take Me to the Water" and "Going to California." Spring continues to defy the years and make music of an articulate and attentive beauty.
Don Dixon (R.E.M.), a renowned producer and underrated songwriter, headlines. The clever, rootsy pop of his new album, The Entire Combustible World in One Small Room, puts it among the year's best releases.