The Mystery and the Hum, by Peter Himmelman

Peter Himmelman's gifts for melody, lyrical poignancy and spiritual depth are rare among singer-songwriters. He can also rock: "Motel Room in Davenport" chugs like a freight train, while "Good Luck Charm" mixes white-boy rapping and an anvil-heavy beat into a solid groove.

Refreshed by Fire, by Shekinah Glory Ministry

Like many modern gospel records, this double disc was recorded live. But it be­gins nontraditionally: "Reclaim Your Moun­­tain" builds tension by repeating a two-note phrase for almost four minutes before spiraling into a Holy Spirit call. "Prophecy" kicks off with a tom-tom solo and then unfurls a Latin-tinged rhythm that frames fervent, improvised prayer.

The Fakeout, the Tease and the Breather, by Canasta

It takes guts to kick off an album with a seven-minute track, but Canasta re­wards the listener who hangs in there. "Becoming You" unfolds with patient pop majesty, recalling Belle & Sebastian or the Decemberists as it evokes a warm spring morning shaking off the frost.

Small Source of Comfort, by Bruce Cockburn

Bruce Cockburn is a singer-songwriter of extraordinary perception and wit.

Beyond versatile

Rob Clearfield

Every so often there's a new talent who sounds like bottled lightning. Chicagoan Rob Clearfield, not yet 30, is blessed as well with a relentless work ethic.