Eric Johnson, “EJ” (Provogue). Long renowned for his electric guitar prowess, Johnson turns toward a much more intimate means of expression on this 13-track mix of vocal and instrumental tunes that spotlight his acoustic guitar and piano playing. Exquisite vocal numbers such as “Fatherly Downs” and “November” realize the full potential of this pared-down approach, while instrumentals such as the Latin-tinged “Serenidad” and the cinematic soundscape of “Once Upon a Time in Texas” broaden the album’s horizons. Johnson also puts a distinctive spin on couple of Simon & Garfunkel staples: He opens the record with an inventive instrumental recasting of “Mrs. Robinson,” while his piano-based vocal take on “Scarborough Fair” breathes new life into the age-old English ballad. Most of the tracks exclusively feature Johnson’s playing; bassist Roscoe Beck appears on a couple of tunes, and Lyle Lovett cellist John Hagen helps make the six-minute “Wrapped in a Cloud” one of the finest songs to come out of Austin this year. Playing Nov. 19 at Paramount Theatre. Here’s “Water Under the Bridge”:


Jamestown Revival, “The Education of a Wandering Man” (Republic). Following their debut breakthrough “Utah,” first released independent label before Universal affiliate Republic picked it up, was a tall task for Jamestown Revival’s Jonathan Clay and Zach Chance, as they admitted up-front in a recent informal letter to fans. “When it came time to start writing for our new album, we experienced something completely foreign to us: pressure,” they confessed. Eventually they let expectations go and recorded their second album much like their first, though in a different location. Whereas “Utah” was done in a cabin in that state’s Wasatch Mountains, they made “The Education of a Wandering Man” in a Hill Country farmhouse near Austin. The resulting dozen songs flow pretty naturally from the folk-rock groove of “Utah,” even as they reach out in some new directions. “Journeyman” stands out immediately, recalling the best of classic 1970s AM-radio fare with its beguiling melodic pull and rich harmonies. The uplifting “Midnight Hour” shares more than a title with the Motown classic, swinging to a similarly captivating sweet-soul beat. The pedal steel licks on “Always Been Wild” pushes them at least partly into country territory. “Almost All the Time” is nearly a cappella, with only very subtle touches of keys and percussion, giving Chance and Clay’s uplifting vocal blend a proper spotlight. Hometown fans may appreciate most the easygoing, autobiographical tune “Back to Austin,” which documents the native Texans’ journey out to California to follow their music-making dreams, and their subsequent return home. Playing Nov. 4 at Emo’s. Here’s the video for the album’s first single, “Love Is a Burden”:


Terri Hendrix, “The Slaughterhouse Sessions” (Wilory). Subtitled “Project 5.2,” this is the second installment in a five-part series Hendrix is aiming to complete in just a year’s time, with four recordings plus a book. Whereas February’s “Love You Strong” followed more in the singer-songwriter suit Hendrix is known for, “The Slaughterhouse Sessions” finds her reaching well beyond her usual comfort zone on down-and-dirty blues numbers such as the harrowing “Bury the Devil” and the funky-swing vibe of “The Lowdown.” Her longtime sidekick Lloyd Maines produced a stellar cast that included Glenn Fukunaga on bass and Bukka Allen on accordion. Hendrix wrote or co-wrote most of the material, supplementing with smartly-chosen covers from the likes of the late Dave Carter (“Crocodile Man”) and country legend A.P. Carter (the album-closing “Sun of the Soul”). Playing Oct. 14 at Cactus Cafe. Here’s a making-of-the-album video:


Thor & Friends, self-titled (LM Duplication). Known for his work with Shearwater, Swans and others, percussionist Thor Harris has long been one of Austin’s most creative and unclassifiable musicians. Joined here primarily by multi-instrumentalist Sara Gautier and Peggy Ghorbani on marimba, plus a handful of others on instruments ranging from violin and guitar to bone flute and mellotron, Harris casts fascinating sonic spells that push the toward the outer edges of avant garde adventurousness. Here’s a live version of the track “Crusades”:


Sophia Johnson, “One Year.” A British transplant who’s a strong enough guitarist to carry the lead slot in other outfits, Johnson focuses on country swing in this 10-song outing that features backing from prominent locals including drummer Tom Lewis, pianist Earl Poole Ball and fiddler Beth Chrisman. Johnson  tips her hat to influential masters on covers of Bob Wills’ “Big Beaver” and Johnny Mercer’s “I’m an Old Cowhand,” but mostly “One Year” showcases her own material, including the autobiographical tale of moving to Austin in “Visa Blues.” Release show Oct. 7 at Continental Club. Here’s the title track:



OCT. 14: Tinnarose, “My Pleasure Has Returned” (Nine Mile), release show Oct. 14 at Barracuda.

OCT. 14: Paul Cauthen, “My Gospel” (Lightning Rod), release show Oct. 14 at Stubb’s indoor.

OCT. 14: Walker Lukens, “Never Understood” EP, in-store Oct. 14 at Waterloo Records, release show Oct. 14 at 3Ten.

OCT. 15: Jon Dee Graham, “Knoxville Skyline” EP, release show Oct. 14 at Continental Club.

OCT. 21: “Highway Prayer: A Tribute to Adam Carroll” (Eight 30), in-store Oct. 26 at Waterloo Records with James McMurtry, Gordy Quist (from Band of Heathens), Jamie Lin Wilson, Noel McKay & Brennen Leigh.

OCT. 21: Kevin Fowler, “Coming to a Honky Tonk Near You.”

OCT. 28: Bonnie Whitmore, “(Expletive) With Sad Girls,” pre-release show Sept. 29 at Continental Club.

OCT. 28: Croy & the Boys, “Hey Come Back,” release show Oct. 29 at Hotel Vegas.

OCT. 28: Brownout, “Brown Sabbath, Vol. 2,” release show Oct. 29 at Scoot Inn.

OCT. 28: Alejandro Escovedo, “Burn Something Beautiful” (Fantasy), playing Oct. 1 at the Continental Club.

NOV. 18: KP & the Boom Boom, “The Brave.”

NOVEMBER: Jonathan Terrell, “Color Me Lucky” EP.