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Sean Costello 

Sean Costello (Tone-Cool/Artemis)

It didn't take long to spawn a prime candidate for best roots music release of 2005. Sean Costello's fourth disc is a formidable mix of youthful drive and savvy-beyond-his-years authority. The 25-year-old Atlanta-bred guitar stud infuses this soulful set with plenty of energy, balancing attitude with a glaring respect for the classic genres he takes on.

But while Costello may be in awe of the blues, R&B, and soul masters who have preceded him, he projects no uncertainty that he's a legit practitioner in his own right. While drawing nonstop on the nuances of classic soul -- as on a simmering take of Al Green's "I'm a Ram" -- his voice always sounds distinctly like his own. On the originals, Costello takes firm control of the genres he loves, hewing infectious and varied fare: a breezy soul shuffle ("No Half Steppin'"), a barn-burnin' harmonica blues stomp ("I've Got to Ride"), and potent swamp rock ("Father"). Costello's heralded guitar work spices things up at every turn while never resorting to overplay. This disc will outlast many a roots pretender this year.

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