New Recordings: Sheer Mag, Dale & Ray, Gucci Maine

Philadelphia band Sheer Mag, a riff-rocking quintet fronted by powerhouse vocalist Christina Halladay.

Sheer Mag
Sheer Mag
(Wilsuns ***1/2)

Praise be, has a full-length LP at long last arrived from the riff-rocking quintet fronted by powerhouse vocalist Christina Halladay that's one of Philadelphia's most deservedly ascendant bands? Well, not exactly. Sheer Mag is a 12-song 180-gram vinyl release that compiles the formidable fivesome's three EPs, previously available only as seven-inch records or streaming on the group's Bandcamp site. The set looks great, from the boss embossed band logo on the album cover to the photo collage in the gatefold sleeve within. And the newly remastered set, recorded in South Philly and Port Richmond, sounds terrific, too, with the Thin Lizzy crunch of "Fan the Flames," feminist kick of "Nobody's Baby," and gentrification observations ("The streets are changing, a white breeze is blowing through them") on the rugged "Point Breeze." The compilation bristles with the raw energy of the band's punkish twin guitar attack and whets the appetite for a true full-length debut, hopefully coming this year. - Dan DeLuca

Sheer Mag plays at 8:30 p.m. Jan. 18 at Boot & Saddle, 1131 S. Broad St., with Louie Louie and Amanda X. Tickets: $10-$12. Information: 267-639-4528, www.bootandsaddlephilly.com.

Dale Watson &  Ray Benson
Dale & Ray
(Ameripolitan/Home ***)

Dale and Ray are two good ol' boys having themselves a good ol' time on their spirited self-titled debut album. Purporting to be a country tandem from Bedsore, Texas, the white-haired duo consists of Alabama-native honky-tonker Dale Watson and Springfield, Montgomery County-raised Ray Benson, the western swing leader of Asleep at the Wheel, who, like Watson, has long made his home in the Lone Star State. Their genial team-up of like-minded honky-tonkers introduces itself with a statement of purpose ("I like to drink Lone Star, I like to smoke pot / It makes us happy, we like it a lot") that, naturally, is called "Dale & Ray." From there, the album never takes itself too seriously as it delights in hard-core-country home truths, with a tribute to Merle ("Feelin' Haggard") and a cover of Willie ("Write Your Own Songs") as it scoots around the dance floor on "I Wish You Knew" and pines for the night before on a "Hangover Ago." - D.D.

Gucci Mane
The Return of the East Atlanta Santa
(Guwop Enterprises ***)

Don't let the title fool you. Despite hinting at the holiday with a snippet of "Jingle Bells" and this sexy display of Santaness ("Middle of the winter, I pull up in a vert / It's the middle of December, she pulled up in a skirt"), this is not a Gucci Mane Christmas album. It is, however, the newest of four album gifts Mane has released since August as part of his hard, fast comeback from a long prison term. Not only has the incendiary Mouth of the South shaken the jail weight - he dropped 75 pounds - but also his once mouthy vocal style has found a new lyrical frankness without eschewing the funk.

Mane recalls his druggy, thuggy past without romanticizing it on "I Can't" ("You can still talk homicides, but I can't") and the bouncy "Last Time" ("I'm an ex-X-popper"). "Stutter" re-creates Mane's trap-hop best while advancing the form with lean muscularity. Plus, Mane is more playful on Santa than he was throughout 2016's recordings, whether it's the lusty, contagious "Nonchalant" or his duet with Drake on "Both." - A.D. Amorosi