Mitzi Dasheya Cowell: Bardos (Self-Released)

Onstage, Mitzi Cowell has no trouble presenting as a full-fledged, blues-drenched guitar hero. Bardos, however, offers a more-complex, nuanced portrait of the artist, shaped by her many influences, yet unique in its own right.

Primarily an acoustic-driven project, this release splits time between personal, local and even global perspectives. The album opens with a pair of love songs that are neither clichéd nor predictable: "Nice and Slow" has a down-home and playful feel that is marked by a Dixieland riff courtesy of the Rosano triplets, and Jeff Merchant on reeds and horns. "Wings (When I See Her)," which follows and includes Rebecca Horton and Don Simpson on backing vocals, is a groove-driven affair that allows Cowell to show off her seldom-heard acoustic chops.

While this album is often contemplative in nature, including one tune featuring Sabra Faulk helping out on a Sufi chant ("Skipping Through Space and Time") and another that may be one of the best dog songs ever written ("Doggie Life"), it's the two upbeat numbers, "Be Love" and "The Everchanging Song," that make this package sparkle. While the former drew its initial inspiration from a gathering on the University Medical Center lawn soon after the tragedy of Jan. 8, 2011, the latter sports a robust Grateful Dead feel from their Blues for Allah/Mars Hotel period.

Gary Mackender, Heather Hardy, Cantrell Maryott, Nick Augustine and Duncan Stitt add their talents to the mix.