Boston's own Eilen Jewell has been pounding souls into submission for the past five years with a bottomless well of bum-out beauties. "Make no fuss over my grave/Just plant something pretty and call it a day," she croons over a lazy shuffle on "Rain Rolls In" — if you're looking for peppier subject matter, it's gonna be a long night. Jewell has made a delicate shack of lived-in roots and sun-faded Nashville twang in which to store her heartbreak while audiences throughout the US and Europe have lined up for a peek inside. This year's Sea of Tears (Signature Sound) nixed the fiddle and added gritty '50s rockabilly and soul, but the rock-club touches just make her seem even more like her own one-woman sleeper cell in a world populated by shaggy Jeff Bridges look-alikes. "It's a rich man's world," Jewell sings over a peppy bar-room two-step, but she's making pretty good use of it.
2. Joanna Newsom
3. Stephin Merritt [Magnetic Fields]
4. Rosanne Cash