% RUBEN BLADES: NOTHING BUT THE TRUTH (Elektra). The Panamanian-born singer- songwriter's first album in English: definitive proof that great music has no language problem.
TONI CHILDS: UNION (A&M). In a year of auspicious breakthroughs for women writer-performers, Childs' was the standout.
JARVIS: WHATEVER WORKS (MCA). Jazz, rock, pop, country and New Age smoothly reconciled by an adept keyboardist with a knack for graceful melody.
LYLE LOVETT: PONTIAC (MCA). Quirky, haunting roadhouse tunes with an underhanded comic flair.
RANDY NEWMAN: LAND OF DREAMS (Reprise). Lacerating spiritual autobiography and unsparing social wit. Pretty good whorehouse piano too.
THE O'KANES: TIRED OF...