Ruthie Foster Blues powerhouse Ruthie Foster is bold enough to call her latest album The Truth According to Ruthie Foster (Blue Corn Music)—and she gets away with it. Backed by some of Isaac Hayes's old hands, Foster tackles a gamut of styles: thrill-is-gone laments, classic soul ("Nickel and a Nail"), and plaintive rock ("When It Don't Come Easy").


Miranda Lee Richards The soft but assured vocals of Miranda Lee Richards cast a glow upon the delicate, '60s-inspired folk-pop on her new CD, Light of X (Nettwerk). The chiming guitars, strings, and piano shine with a melancholy dreaminess, and so do Richards's lyrics (Finally, there's something / I can hold on to that isn't broken).


Serena Ryder Already a star in her native Canada, Serena Ryder attacks a lyric like a young Melissa Etheridge. Her earthquake vibrato adds urgency to the pop-rock on Is It O.K. (Atlantic), in the excoriating "Little Bit of Red" or the wistful "Weak in the Knees." She's not subtle, but neither is a heart full of passion.