Crystal Bowersox, ‘All That for This’

With her busker mentality and refusal to compromise, Bowersox was one of the most unlikely contestants to appear on “American Idol.” The 2010 runner-up’s second disc is a confident improvement over her debut, demonstra­t­­-ing growth as both a songwriter and vocalist. Much credit has to go to producer Steve Berlin (of Los Lobos) who has helped shape Bowersox’s songs and clearly pushed the singer-songwriter to find the sweetness in her soulful voice. She writes or co-writes all of the rewarding original songs, and it sounds as if a burden has been lifted. The tracks breathe and speak to life’s small pleasures with an eye toward the future instead of the regrets of the past. Bowersox, 27, has always had a big, bluesy voice, but on the best songs, especially “Amen for My Friends” and “Someday,” she’s relying less on affectation and more on her instincts. Besides a redundant cover of the Sundays’ “Here’s Where the Story Ends,” and the tepid duet with Jakob Dylan, “Stitches,” “This” is all that. (Out Tuesday)


ESSENTIAL “Amen for My Friends”