The New Albums by JD McPherson and J. Roddy Walston Are Well Worth Your Time

McPherson expands his sonic palette to exciting effect—and Walston is catchy as hell.

JD McPherson
Undivided Heart & Soul
New West

JD McPherson has long been one of the more inventive artists with deep blues roots, thanks to a strong, expressive voice suited to a variety of genres and songs that tamper with familiar templates in subtly intriguing ways. On the exhilarating Undivided Heart & Soul, McPherson makes this implied versatility explicit, expanding his sonic palette to exciting effect, from an eerie ballad (“Hunting for Sugar”) worthy of being repurposed as either a ‘50s teen lament or modern RnB, to sizzling rockabilly (“Bloodhound Rock”). If the colorful pop tinges initially seem like a dramatic departure, McPherson never loses the greasy intensity that made him so compelling in the first place.

J. Roddy Walston & the Business
Destroyers of the Soft Life

J. Roddy Walston & the Business pursue a similar strategy on their fourth album, updating the band’s down-home version of gritty blue-collar rock with a flashier approach to produce a big, soaring sound. For all the grand gestures, however, Walston remains a soulful vocalist who brings a ring of down-to-earth authenticity to epic songs like “Bad Habits” and “You Know Me Better.” While longtime fans with a purist bent might object to the overt commercial trappings, “Heart Is Free” and “Burn Black” (which echoes Arctic Monkeys) are so catchy that resistance is futile.