Planning some cuddle time soon? The cool winter nights are still a couple of months away, but it's not too soon to think about music to get cozy with. Put Traci Lamar's Apasionada (Akashic Recordings) at the top of the list. Amid castanets, accordion, percussion, horns, and strings, her sultry alto voice tickles the ear and warms the blood. Lamar, best known recently as one-third of the Texana Dames, embraces the big band sound ("Midnight Sun") as deftly as Spanish ballads ("No Me Dejes Amor"), and even tango ("Negrura"), all with panache. Apasionada is a rich and romantic recording from a long overlooked local talent. Sarah Elizabeth Campbell: The Early Years revives a live recording from 1987, taken from a cassette in her mother's collection. On it, Austin's perennial singer-songwriter is just hitting her stride, both in voice and as a writer ("Mexico," "Heartache," "Waltz for You"), matched by classics by folkie favorites like John Prine, Randy Newman, and Stephen Foster. Accompanied by guitarist Jeff Cruse, the 12 cuts are a treat. Sarah Elizabeth Campbell's recordings are as rare as her appearances, and that's Austin's loss. Sue Foley's Change (Ruf Records) indicates the name of a song only, for although the once local guitarist has matured, she's stuck with her rural blues style admirably for nine albums. The live and intimate recordings herein are alluring, the most slyly seductive performances she's captured since '95's Big City Blues. Five tracks are Foley's, including the title track and cheeky "Doggie Treats." The addition of disparate tunes like Memphis Minnie's "Me and My Chauffeur Blues" and George Harrison's "Here Comes the Sun" make this low-key effort doubly rewarding. Come to think of it, why wait for winter to cuddle when you can heat up with good music now?
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