Steve Morse / X

John Cate has been through a period of rebirth and renewal — and it’s engagingly apparent in his new album with the van Gogh Brothers, “X.” The title may be cryptic, but the music is open-hearted all the way, as Cate picks up the pieces and moves on with dignity intact. The all-original material touches upon Tom Petty-like hard-pop grooves and some gorgeous harmony pieces in a breezy Southern California folk-rock style (Cate cites Neil Young and Rick Nelson & the Stone Canyon Band for “inspiration” in the credits). A few songs could use a little more juice in the studio, but the overall effect is of a very persuasive, very moving experience.
     — STEVE MORSE is a longtime music critic who was at the Boston Globe for 30 years and has contributed to Billboard and Rolling Stone