Nickel Creek Rises Again With This Side

Nickel Creek , the acoustic trio who have become CMT favorites with the videos “When You Come Back Down” and “The Lighthouse’s Tale,” lead this week’s new releases. Deana Carter gets repackaged by her former label, while another folk-friendly favorite, James Taylor, returns with new material. But before it gets too quiet, the Two Dollar Pistols fire off another round of crackling alt-country.

For their second album, This Side (Sugar Hill), Nickel Creek step out with adventurous arrangements and curious songs like “Spit on a Stranger.” Since 2000, the trio — Sean Watkins, 25; his sister Sara, 21; and Chris Thile, 21 — has toured with Vince Gill and sold nearly 700,000 copies of their 2000 debut album. Sean Watkins and Thile have also released well-received solo albums on Sugar Hill in the interim. Alison Krauss , an acoustic musical prodigy herself, returns as producer.

The Deana Carter Collection (Capitol) brings together hits (“Strawberry Wine,” “We Danced Anyway”), misses (“People Miss Planes,” a highlight from her second album), and three previously unreleased tracks. Carter’s new label, Arista Nashville, is expected to release a single to country radio in October, with an album to follow in 2003.

James Taylor didn’t make his name in country music, but plenty of country stars in the 1990s credited his sound for their own musical ambitions — especially Garth Brooks . Taylor releases October Road (Columbia), a follow-up to 1997’s Grammy-winning Hourglass. He performed the title track with the Dixie Chicks at a recent CMT Crossroads taping. The special airs in October, appropriately enough.

Two Dollar Pistols stand out among the coolest country acts in North Carolina — a launching ground for current hipsters Ryan Adams and Tift Merritt. (In fact, Merritt and the band recorded an EP together in 1999.) Lead singer John Howie Jr. contributes 12 new songs for You Ruined Everything (Yep Roc). Look for the quartet, which takes its name from a George Jones lyric, on a Southern tour this fall.

Bluegrass and gospel music find heavenly harmony on The Angels Are Singing (Rounder), a collection of acoustic spiritual songs by women such as Krauss, Rhonda Vincent and Hazel Dickens . Check out the previously unreleased track from OlaBelle Reed, “Six Feet of Earth Makes Us All of One Size.”

For folk enthusiasts, Vanguard Records releases the three-CD set Roots of Folk. The earliest folk singers, anti-war songs and the blues revival are well represented here. The set also features performances from the Newport Folk Festival, which the label had the exclusive rights to record from 1959 to 1965. One of New York City’s first folk bands also returns to the spotlight with The Greenbriar Boys, Best of the Vanguard Years. The band will reunite for the first time in 10 years for the Philadelphia Folk Festival, the Champaign Folk Festival and at New York’s Lincoln Center (with Doc Watson ).

Craig Shelburne has been writing for since 2002. He is also a producer for CMT Edge, Concrete Country and Live @ CMT.