EVERLAST

"White Trash Beautiful"

Island/Def Jam

BUDDAHEAD

"Crossing the Invisible Line"

Sanctuary

"Blinded by the Sun," the opening track from Everlast's new album, "White Trash Beautiful," describes the singer meeting a West Virginia woman who asks for a ride to New York. But as she explains how she killed her cheating boyfriend back in Atlanta, he finds himself torn between desire and wariness and begins to question his own impulses. Everlast sings the story over an acoustic guitar in the gravelly baritone of a Johnny Cash and even quotes Neil Young. But the track is built atop the muscular rhythms of samples from Run-DMC and Eric B. & Rakim. It's a country song. It's a rap song. It's a Springsteenish blue-collar-rock song. It's something brand-new.

It kicks off one of the year's best albums, a masterful blending of hip-hop and Southern rock that makes the previous attempts by Kid Rock and Bubba Sparxxx seem cartoonish by comparison. Everlast (a House of Pain alumnus born Erik Schrody) defies the biggest taboo in rap by dropping the macho pose to acknowledge his failed relationships and crumbled dreams. He gets away with it because he never whines and always accepts his share of the blame.

From the title track's sharp-eyed portrait of a trailer-park diner cook to the brokenhearted laments of "Sleepin' Alone" and "Angel," Everlast fills his lyrics with telling details and his voice with raw hurt. He balances the heartache with witty up-tempo tunes about back-of-the-liquor-store crap games and his own career; he samples everyone from Ray Charles to Bobby Bland. The highlight, though, is "This Kind of Lonely," which transforms Hank Williams's "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry" into a honky-tonk confession for a new century.

Raman Kia spent the first nine years of his life in Iran, but very little of that background is evident on "Crossing the Invisible Line," the debut album by his band, Buddahead. Instead the disc is devoted to expert imitations of the Beatles' melodies and harmonies. Kia has a spellbinding tenor and a real knack for spinning out ear candy. Unfortunately, his rhythm tracks are perfunctory and his lyrics have nothing to say, and the album resembles Coldplay and Travis far more than anything the Beatles ever did.

-- Geoffrey Himes

Appearing Sunday at the 9:30 club. * To hear a free Sound Bite from Everlast, call Post-Haste at 301-313-2200 and press 8126; to hear Buddahead, press 8127. (Prince William residents, call 703-690-4110.)