Acid Tongue (Warner Bros.)
Over the course of four Rilo Kiley albums and now two solo albums, Jenny Lewis has cultivated a charming, knowing persona, mixing Debbie Harry's downtown sexuality with Joni Mitchell's West Coast melancholy and Loretta Lynn's Southern grit. But only now have all of those elements congealed; her character still feels borrowed, but at least it feels whole. Thus, we get folksy, plaintive laments like the title track, offset by intriguing lines like, "I've been down to Dixie and dropped acid on my tongue." (Whatever psychedelic effect this had isn't evident here.) More pleasing is "See FernÃ¡ndo" -- sadly, not an Abba cover, but an "I Want Candy"-style rocker, complete with hand-claps and a road-ready chorus. (Put it after Tom Petty's "Refugee" on your next driving mix.) "Carpetbaggers" is another travellin' song, augmented by Elvis Costello's eager crooning. Dude hasn't sounded this invigorated in years (look out, Diana Krall). Other guests include Zooey Deschanel and the Black Crowes' Chris Robinson, who lend the album an unintended air of rootlessness. They defy the album's true purpose: Getting J-Lew one step closer to being herself.