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A half-dozen cool things in music, from two points of view:

John Conley of Victoria:

1 "Austin City Limits." Episodes are free-to-stream at for four weeks after first broadcast, which means songwriter nonpareil Jason Isbell and his band the 400 Unit can be watched until Dec. 10 and Foo Fighters until Dec. 17.

2 American Authors, "Come Home to Me." I can't get enough of the American Authors' new holiday EP, with a mix of previous releases, a cover of "Sleigh Ride", and the new title track. Band member Zac Barnett is a 2005 graduate of Minnetonka High. "My Last Dime" was played live this summer at Mystic Lake's Great Midwest Rib Fest and comes out in the new year.

3 Medium Rustic and the Legendary Percolators. A couple of my favorite local bands have upcoming shows. Medium Rustic brings their good time, honky-tonk rock 'n' roll show to Floyd's Bar in Victoria on Dec. 9, and the Legendary Percolators will crank out '60s and '70s hits and deep cuts at the Crystal VFW on Dec. 15.

Jon Bream, Star Tribune critic:

1 Chris Stapleton, "Higher." There's a lot of midlife maturity on these many reflections on love. Heavy on R&B-ish ballads disguised as country-blues, Stapleton's fifth studio album proudly showcases his wonderfully dusky, soulful voice (love the falsetto on the title track). This is one of the best albums from mainstream Nashville in 2023.

2 Al Green and Bettye LaVette in St. Louis. The two soul singers did not duet at the suburban Family Arena, but opener LaVette rewarded with an hourlong career retrospective, peaking on George Harrison's "Isn't It a Pity." The seldom-seen Green teased by letting the crowd or backup singers handle too many lead vocals on his 1970s hits, and tantalized with an occasional ecstatic squeal as only he can do.

3 Jimmy Fallon and Meghan Trainor, "Wrap Me Up." Performing on "Jimmy Kimmel Live," the other late-night Jimmy was too hammy and hyper, but Trainor put the perfect bow on this special holiday duet with its echoes of Phil Spector of Christmas past.

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