Bettye Swann
(Astralwerks/ Honest Jons)

If you've never heard of Bettye Swann, that probably means you spend a lot less money at record fairs, and that's a good thing. These 22 rarities are 100% tight '60s soul from Muscle Shoals. Swann, who disappeared from pop music in 1975, does sweet R&B covers of country tunes like Merle's "Just Because You Can't Be Mine," and even gives Otis a run for it with her cheery take on "These Arms of Mine." The characters that populate the songs this Louisiana-born singer sings are either so brokenhearted they can hardly breathe, or so in love it's all they can think about. They're doomed either way, but Swann sings these tunes in such a well-mannered fashion, you forget all of that. She's so good you forget your own name. MIKE McGONIGAL

Do you Want New Wave or Do You Want the Soft Pink Truth?

San Francisco go-go dancer gone Ph.D. student and Matmos member extraordinaire, Drew Daniel, has decided to tackle the punk classics, sprinkle some fairy dust over them and scoot each one under a gleaming disco ball. If you ask me, this is the best thing that could happen to some old-school gems--including Minor Threat and Die Kreuzen--to force me, a 23-year-old that totally missed that boat, to listen for the first time with intrigue and ass-engagement. My music beginnings blossomed with Utah Saints, not Crass, so this album is the punk pedagogical equivalent to those Bible cartoons that teach children the Word sans annoying old-speak and chaotic name switching. For others, this album is a perfect specimen evidencing the evolution of raw tech-dance from electroclash to something good. JENNA ROADMAN

Violence in the Snowy Field

Where Dolorean's last album, Not Exotic, walked the line between indierock and country in that Joe Pernice/Radar Brothers kind of way, the band's third release, Violence in the Snowy Fields is planted firmly in the soil. Al James' organ-toned voice--always soft, even when loud--hugs twangy harmonies as Dolorean moves more towards the Whiskeytown mode of country music. Tighter and more focused than Exotic, the lyrics are filled with the kind of religious romanticism and natural sincerity reminiscent of Will Oldham's best moments. The chorus of the title track shows Al James to be one of the best songwriters around today: "In the end, St. John says all things shall be revealed / Like violence, like violence in snowy fields." Whatever direction the music goes, James' words are capable of firmly grounding their weight. M. WILLIAM HELFRICH

Dolorean celebrate the release of Violence, Friday, December 10 at Holocene, 1001 SE Morrison

**** Edgar Bergen & Charlie McCarthy
*** Senor Wences & Pedro
** Paul Winchel & Jerry Mahoney
* Shari Lewis & Lamb Chop