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The way we see it, there are two ways to react to the end of summer. You can accept the consequences by turning reflective while gardens wither and leaves begin to die. Or you can flash a middle finger to seasonal changes by squeezing as much heat and activity as possible into the last long, warm days of the year.

But if you'd rather rekindle memories of the blast-furnace heat of the summer of 1999, go for the compilation Latin Mix USA, Vol. 2, which suggests that Ricky Martin isn't the only Hispanic star ready to put a South-of-the-border beat onto the dancefloors of Middle America. While Sony Music adds star power to the collection by including a song by the ubiquitous Will Smith, listeners will likely find more pleasure in sizzling tracks by such promising acts as Elvis Crespo, Shakira, MDO, and the unforgettable hip hop work of Ivy Queen (who duets with Fugee mastermind Wyclef Jean in a sparkling guest appearance). Other than the romantic duet between actress Jennifer Lopez and heartthrob Marc Anthony, everything sizzles with energy and passionate release.

For shifting indoors, we'd suggest the new collection by veterans Linda Ronstadt and Emmylou Harris, two old friends who apparently were in the mood for drama and musical experimentation when they got together to record "Western Wall: The Tucson Sessions". The artistic torchbearers, whose groundbreaking work of the 1970s remains an influence on many of today's country and Americana performers, aren't playing it safe. Rather than sticking to the sweet traditionalism found on their country recordings with Dolly Parton as members of the Trio, the two instead create an archly dramatic, thoroughly modern sound on "Western Wall". For the most part, they take beautifully written songs and add an unsettling, uneasy edge. The results will put off a few listeners, but the risk-taking will interest those who enjoy hearing established artists taking creative chances.

In a similar vein, rising Americana music performer Julie Miller has created a strikingly intense album of songs about death, renewal and religion on her highly recommended "Broken Things" album. Though the collection features plenty of lust and even more love, it's the kind of listening experience that will bring on tears and encourage deeply meditative moments.

For something similarly exotic, pick up on the outlandish rock instrumentals of Los Straitjackets, who put a psychotic spin on old-fashioned beach music instrumentals. A favorite of Hollywood film producers and West Coast extreme surfers, the colorfully masked foursome present concise, twangy guitar rockers on their latest album, "The Velvet Touch of Los Straitjackets". It's a rocket-fueled blast that will act as a sunblock to your troubles, at least for a while, and it's just the right mood music for shaking the last bit of sand from your shoes. / Issue 200 - August 2018
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