A follow-up to Stephanie Hatfield's 2009 self-titled classic rock/Americana-focused debut, The Tracks finds Hatfield and her band, Hot Mess, once again at the top of their game. Hot Mess guitarist Bill Palmer (of Hundred Year Flood fame) pulls quadruple duty here, performing production, mixing, and recording tasks. Recorded at Frogville Studio in Santa Fe, The Tracks lays bare the ensemble's broad stylistic range and advanced musicality with Andrew Primm on drums, Matt McClinton on bass, and Justin Lindsey on electric guitar. Hatfield, a classically trained singer with a strong background singing gospel, country, rock, and jazz, continues to be a stellar vocal presence, and here she has tempered her studio tendency to push her voice out of a beautifully sustained note into an overly raw, rock 'n' roll scream - an effect that holds more weight for her in a live, outdoor setting anyway. Country-rock album opener "Leave Somehow" is a sympathetic nod to feeling trapped in a relationship that seems to be going nowhere, and Hatfield's jazz/gospel past lingers in the background with the addition of some Hammond B3 organ, courtesy of Kevin Zoernig. Hints of Tom Petty's "Mary Jane's Last Dance" peek through the guitar phrasing of "Wrong Side of Dawn," and Hatfield's voice builds like Alannah Myles' does in the 1988 hit "Black Velvet." "Wrong Side of Dawn" is one of two rockin' scorchers here. The second is the anthemic "Walls Are Not Mine," which gathers all of Hatfield's many influences into one of the best instrumental buildups - and album closings - you'll ever hear. - Rob DeWalt.