Saxophonist Charles Lloyd’s full-toned tenor opens his beautiful, easy “Defiant” with a soulful solo that is subtly supported by Bill Frisell, guitar; Greg Leisz, dobro and pedal steel; and bassist Reuben Rogers, and cleanly propelled by Eric Harland’s drums. Singer Lucinda Williams joins the quintet on five of the next nine songs, and what a colorful and natural combination it is! Lloyd, who has worked with Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Gary Snyder, said, “Lu is a poet. An authentic, American voice. Her sound is like an emotional barometer. A weather vane. Sometimes it swirls around in the tempest of a storm and sometimes it is sweet and pure as a Southern breeze carrying the intoxicating perfume of magnolia to you.” She seems to set Lloyd on fire here. Her “Ventura” provides another fine example of something that should be attempted more often: working some strong jazz juice into the folk-pop milieu. On the multihued title track, heat and complexity build to a place where Lloyd’s out-there blowing is apropos. The standard “Ballad of the Sad Young Man” is a placid pause with another gorgeous Lloyd part. “We’ve Come Too Far” begins with a gaunt intro by the leader, and everyone perfectly embraces Williams’ exhausted tale-telling. The high point here is “Unsuffer Me,” with a wonderful mix of guitar working around the strident, chewy lyrics. The last half is a loose jam, Lloyd honking against snaky lines by Leisz, Williams engaging in some soft caterwauling and other wordless vocals, and Frisell just rocking out. — Paul Weideman
SPIDER BAGS Someday Everything Will Be Fine (Merge Records) North Carolina bar band Spider Bags first received attention with the lo-fi, high-energy Goodbye Cruel World, Hello, Crueler World. They titled their new album Someday Everything Will Be Fine, so to go by album titles, you can assume they’re getting more optimistic about the future. The music, still the same gloriously sloppy and scuzzed-out Southern rock, backs up this assumption. Frontman Dan McGee has often articulated the ways in which debauchery can be life-affirming. “Yesterday’s a dead rabbit, baby, let’s burn tomorrow black,” he sings on the scorching opening track, “Reckless.” With a strong ear for soaring melodies, McGee offers the swagger to pull off this kind of country-punk. The album has two towering peaks. One is “My Heart Is a Flame in Reverse,” a torch song about a man who meets a woman with a pentagram tattoo on her neck; she cuts a cottonmouth in two, urinates in his boot, and he’s smitten. The other is a cover of Charlie Rich’s 1977 country hit “Rollin’ With the Flow.” They drag Rich’s song through the mud while retaining his soulful backing vocals and even a smidgeon of his strings. It’s a paean to growing old in a lifestyle of rock music and booze, and rolling with life’s punches no matter what tomorrow holds. It comes off like a manifesto.