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Tipping Point: Our picks and pans

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Disc tip


Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit

Well, here we are. If you've been listening with increasing awe over the course of singer/songwriter/guitarist Isbell's career, from early days in the Drive-By Truckers through solo albums like "Southeastern," "Something More Than Free" and "The Nashville Sound," you know how frighteningly good he is. And he's always getting better. So it probably occurred to you that, at some point, the haunted-but-hopeful Isbell would probably be in competiton only with himself. Seriously, here's a guy whose lyrics are literature, a modern fusion of Townes Van Zandt, Bob Dylan and Guy Clark — fused with the insanely gifted melodic sense of Neil Finn or Glenn Tilbrook. With his band The 400 Unit, Isbell just released "Reunions," a breathtaking, instantly overpowering masterpiece of hooks and narrative, beautifully performed and produced. It's like a Murderer's Row of songcraft: "What've I Done to Help," "Dreamsicle," "Only Children," "Overseas," "Running With Our Eyes Closed" and on and on. Just hit REPEAT on the whole album and let it roll.

— Rick Koster

DVD tip

Just Mercy

This affecting drama tells the true story of a young lawyer named Bryan Stevenson who represented death-row inmates starting in the late 1980s in Alabama. He discovers unfathomable levels of corruption by the police and lawyers that put an innocent black man, Walter McMillan, on death row. Michael B. Jordan exudes a deep kindness and sharp intelligence as Stevenson, and Jamie Foxx gives a career-best turn as McMillan. Foxx has been great in other productions at going over-the-top, but here he underplays beautifully, to devastating effect. Some of the dialogue and directing feel a little expected, but the acting raises the bar — watching Jordan and Foxx in scenes together is where the movie really shines — and the fact that this is a true story is what will stick with you.

— Kristina Dorsey

TV tip


10 p.m. Mondays on NBC

“American Idol” is done for the season. So is “The Voice.” What is a music-loving TV fan to do? That’s easy: start watching “Songland.” This show is in its second season, and, instead of singers, it focuses on songwriters. Young writers come in and perform one of their numbers that they are pitching to a star (Luis Fonsi or Lady Antebellum or Usher) to record. The star narrows down the contenders, and then the writers develop those tunes more with uber-talented producer/writers Ryan Tedder, Ester Dean and Shane McAnally. It’s fascinating to watch how the songs morph.

— Kristina Dorsey


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