IRISHSean-Nos Nua by Sinead O’Connor (Vanguard). Out of the spotlight lately, O’Connor re-emerges as a Celtic siren, interpreting Irish classics in a lush style that bypasses drippy sentimentalism for something much deeper. —Keith Goetzman
ROOTSOf MyNativeLand by Clothesline Revival (Paleo Music). With an eclectic and mesmerizing blend of soundscapes—electronica, acoustic country, downhome vocals, and samplings of 1930s and ’40s field recordings from Alan Lomax and Moe Asch—recording artists Conrad Praetzel and Tom Armstrong offer up a fresh and soulful version of Americana. —Karen Olson
VOCALFlight: Rhiannon’s Interactive Guide to Vocal Improvisation (Sounds True). Rhiannon, a founding member of the a cappella ensembles
Voicestra and Alive!, guides you through 136 minutes of intimate exercises—everything from Qigong warm-ups and breathwork to jazzy scat-singing—all to help you discover the Bobby McFerrin and the Ella Fitzgerald inside you. —Eric Utne
POPHome Away by Will Kimbrough (Waxy Silver). Borrowing a bit from stompy blues, hook-laden power pop, and scrubby country-rock, Kimbrough comes off as a self-deprecating but spirited songwriter. This spill-it-all solo debut—“my Double Fantasy,” he has called it—marks him as a man to watch, and listen to. —K.G.
CLASSICALChopin: 24 Etudes by Murray Perahia (Sony). Perahia attacks these piano treasures with remarkable clarity and verve, power and solemnity—obviously delighting in the composer’s many and varied moods. —Craig Cox
CARIBBEANCalypso by various artists (Putamayo). This bouncy anthology, gathering 1950s-era tunes from across the Caribbean, delights with sunny, witty music that shows how jazz, swing, and R&B influenced the island sound. –J.W.
ROCK-GOSPELLive at the Wetlands by Robert Randolph and the Family Band (Dare/Warner Bros.). Players of the “sacred steel” guitar generally limit the instrument to church performances, but Robert Randolph visits nightclubs to evangelize via soaring runs of notes that have two trajectories—high and higher. The pedal steel’s voicelike inflections and sheer joyousness make the Family a jam band like few others. —K.G.
KIDSLove atGoonPark: Harry Harlow and the Science of Affection by Deborah Blum (Perseus, $26). Children need love. Sounds like a no-brainer, but when psychologist Harry Harlow declared as much in the 1950s and 1960s, he was initially shouted down by leading psychologists who believed that parental affection was not only unnecessary, but downright destructive for children. Pulitzer Prize–winning science writer Blum vividly reveals how Harlow has forever altered our notions of love. —Anjula Razdan
SMALL-TOWNAMERICAPopulation: 485 by Michael Perry (HarperCollins, $24.95). With hilarious and heartbreaking stories about life as a volunteer firefighter in a small Wisconsin town, and a poetic voice that is simultaneously cantankerous and tender, Perry delves into the heart and soul of what it means to come home. Population: 485 is destined to become an American classic. —Karen Olson
THE GOOD LIFESustainable Planet: Solutions for the 21st Century edited by Juliet B. Schor and Betsy Taylor (Beacon, $18). Smart essays by sharp-eyed observers (Mary Pipher, Bill McKibben, Vicki Robin, and more) showing how career success and consumer overload can distract us from the pursuit of happiness. —Jay Walljasper
CONSUMERISMBranded: The Buying and Selling of Teenagers by Alissa Quart (Perseus, $25). A biting indictment of corporate marketing, Quart’s exposé reveals the numbing effects of consumerism on American teens and shows how kids have been able to successfully opt out of the game. —Craig Cox
CALENDARSThe Autonomedia Calendar of Jubilee Saints: Radical Heroes for the New Millennium and Sheroes 2003: Womyn Warriors Calendar commemorate the lives of artists, freedom fighters, iconoclasts, and visionaries worldwide, many of whom are little known—Gerard Winstanley, Bhagat Singh, and Armida Garcia de Contreras, for example. ($8.95 and $9.95 respectively from Box 568, Brooklyn, NY 11211; www.autono media.org) —Chris Dodge
CATHOLIC CHURCHBread Rising A strong voice of reform for Catholics edited by scholar and former priest Terry Dosh, this invigorating newsletter monitors ideas and developments around the world affecting the cause of democracy, social justice, women’s rights, and common sense within the church. ($19/yr. [8 issues] from 4124 Harriet Ave. S., Minneapolis, MN 55409; firstname.lastname@example.org —Jay Walljasper