Manufacturer: Mercury / Lost Highway
Bluegrass became pop music for a while when the soundtrack to this 2000 Coen Brothers film became one of the 10 top-selling soundtracks ever. Here's the complete T-Bone Burnett-produced soundtrack plus a CD with 14 more tracks, 12 of which are unissued re The best soundtracks are like movies for the ears, and O Brother, Where Art Thou? joins the likes of Saturday Night Fever and The Harder They Come as cinematic pinnacles of song. The music from the Coen brothers' Depression-era film taps into the source from which the purest strains of country, blues, bluegrass, folk, and gospel music flow. Producer T Bone Burnett enlists the voices of Alison Krauss, Gillian Welch, Emmylou Harris, Ralph Stanley, and kindred spirits for performances of traditional material, in arrangements that are either a cappella or feature bare-bones accompaniment. Highlights range from the aching purity of Krauss's "Down to the River to Pray" to the plainspoken faith of the Whites' "Keep on the Sunny Side" to Stanley's chillingly plaintive "O Death." The album's spiritual centerpiece finds Krauss, Welch, and Harris harmonizing on "Didn't Leave Nobody but the Baby," a gospel lullaby that sounds like a chorus of Appalachian angels. --Don McLeese
Manufacturer: Blix Street
Brand: Autumn Leaves
Five years after her death at age 33, Eva Cassidy is an international star. Songbird, a platinum-selling smash, reached #1 in England, Ireland, and the U.S. A recent Nightline profile about Eva generated more emails than almost any other program in its history. When you hear this album, you'll know why the Washington Post raved that "she could sing anything...and make it sound like it was the only music that mattered." (43 minutes) Songbird cherry-picks tracks from the three locally released albums of Eva Cassidy, whose hauntingly beautiful vocals went virtually unheard outside her native Washington, D.C., during her short 33 years with us. Lost to melanoma in 1996, Cassidy sang with an unaffected purity and an astonishing ability to make both classic and contemporary songs sound like they were written just for her. Sting's "Fields of Gold" finally lives up to its title through the alchemy of Cassidy's transcendent rendition, while other tracks on this anthology showcase her ease in the realms of pop (Christine McVie's "Songbird"), soul ("People Get Ready"), gospel ("Wade on the Water"), and traditional standards ("Autumn Leaves" and "Over the Rainbow"). Framed by understated jazz and pop arrangements, Cassidy's clear, soulful voice and exquisite phrasing make her that rarest of vocalists whose interpretations are a complement to any song. A fine introduction to a true talent. --Billy Grenier
The musical collaboration of the decade, Raising Sand is the sound of two iconic figures stepping out of their respective comfort zones and letting their instincts lead them across a brave new sonic landscape. Despite hailing from distinctly different backgrounds, Alison Krauss and Robert Plant share a maverick spirit and willingness to extend the boundaries of their respective genres. This spirit, expertly honed by producer T Bone Burnett, has resulted in an album pitched three steps beyond some cosmic collision of early urban blues, spacious West Texas country, and the untapped potential of the folk-rock revolution. Supported by the unparalleled musicianship of Marc Ribot, Dennis Crouch, Mike Seeger, Jay Bellerose, Norman Blake, Greg Leisz, Patrick Warren, and Riley Baugus, Plant and Krauss -- as both solo and harmony vocalists -- tackle an intriguing selection of songs from such tunesmiths as Tom Waits, Gene Clark, Sam Phillips, Townes Van Zandt, The Everly Broth! ers, and Mel Tillis. Raising Sand finds Robert Plant and Alison Krauss exploring popular music's elemental roots while still sounding effortlessly, breath-takingly contemporary. The song "Killing the Blues" is featured in the new JC Penney American Living Campaign. Perhaps only the fantasy duo of King Kong and Bambi could be a more bizarre pairing than Robert Plant and Alison Krauss. Yet on Raising Sand, their haunting and brilliant collaboration, the Led Zeppelin screamer and Nashville's most hypnotic song whisperer seem made for each other. This, however, is not the howling Plant of "Whole Lotta Love," but a far more precise and softer singer than even the one who emerged with Dreamland (2002). No matter that Plant seems so subdued as to be on downers, for that's one of the keys to this most improbable meeting of musical galaxies--almost all of it seems slowed down, out of time, otherworldly, and at times downright David Lynch-ian, the product of an altered consciousness. Yet probably the main reason it all works so well is the choice of producer...
Brand: PETER PAUL & MARY
One of the most enduring acts in American music, Peter Paul And Mary both defined and transcended the 1960s folk revival. The trio's passionate commitment to peace and social justice made them the conscience of an era as they soulfully communicated political concerns through music in an unprecedented way. At the same time that they reached millions with their social message, they acheived phenomenal mass popularity.
2011 debut full length from the Folk/Country duo. The Civil Wars consists of John Paul White, hailing from Florence, AL and Joy Williams, originally from Santa Cruz, CA, but now residing in East Nashville. The duo's chance meeting a year and a half ago fueled an immediate songwriting chemistry and creative synergy. Their second show ever, performed at a sold out Eddie's Attic, was recorded and released as a free digital album. Of the duo, Reg's Coffee House host, Scott Register, praises: 'In my 13 years on the radio, few of the artists I've championed had as immediate a reaction as The Civil Wars. When I first spun 'Poison & Wine' listeners couldn't get enough of it and wanted to own it immediately. This band has the 'it' factor that you look for. Don't miss out.'
Good album and good songs. Irish troubadour Damien Rice doesn't so much reinvent the folk genre on this lush, impossibly mature debut album as push its boundaries in several compelling musical directions at once--all the more remarkable considering the album was largely self-produced and home-recorded. His songs revolve around familiar, bittersweet concerns of life, love, and their attendant frustrations, but delivered with conspiratorial intimacy on melodic wings (like on the graceful "Cannonball") that Rice seems almost embarrassed to share. If there's anything like a template here, it's "The Blower's Daughter," the song that first attracted the interest/stewardship of film composer David Arnold (whose guest production provides "Amie" with expansive cinematic elegance) and became a massive Irish hit. His plaintive vocal, embroidered by the mournful solo cello of Vyvienne Long, is suddenly brightened by an instrumental flourish and Lisa Hannigan's vocals--before just as quickly wafting on the breeze. With touches that range from "Day in the Life"-styled string collages to the dizzy, exhilarating neo-operatic excesses of the 16-minute "Eskimo," Rice's musical palate here is as adventurous as his songs are grounded in emotional intimacy. --Jerry McCulley
Manufacturer: Saja Records
Certified platinum by the RIAA (6/93). Until his untimely death, Jim Croce was a force to be reckoned with on radio playlists. Photographs & Memories repackages some of his best work. Romantic acoustic-oriented songs were his hallmark, and songs like "Time in a Bottle," were huge hits because of their easy sentimentality. "I Got a Name" was the singer as well-worn folk traveler, while "Bad, Bad Leroy Brown" and even "You Don't Mess Around with Jim" followed standard boogie chord progressions, albeit with Croce's softer rock feel. There wasn't much really separating the overt emotions of "I'll Have to Say I Love You in a Song" and "Operator" from his sap-dripping contemporaries, but there was just enough of an edge in Croce's warm voice to elevate his love songs to another level. Like a, oh, moderately priced wine, Croce remains a classic--accessible, affordable, and easy to enjoy. -- Steve Gdula
Celtic Thunder The Show, the audio companion for the popular PBS television special, showcases the five Irish vocalists in their ideal setting, a stage in Dublin. Celtic Thunder thrives on the contrast of its various voices (four tenors and a baritone) creating a surreal musical landscape. Paul Byrum's assured operatic tones on "Remember Me (Recuerdeme)" crest against the doleful pop of Ryan Kelly's "Desperado" and the nascent rumble of Darien McGinty on "Come By the Hills." The concert is tied together by the steady hand of songwriter/pianist Phil Coulter, who also produced the show.
The most comprehensive single-CD collection by this treasured troubadour. These 1965-1987 United Artists, Reprise and Warner Bros. tracks include his Top 10 hits Sundown; If You Could Read My Mind; The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald; Carefree Highway , and 14 more! Though he rose from the ranks of journeyman '60s folksinger to become a potent and consistent '70s hit maker, Canadian singer-songwriter Gordon Lightfoot's stock in trade was as much hard-eyed, dispassionate observation as romance or poetic whimsy. Perhaps that's why his songs have been covered by everyone from Elvis (this set's "Early Morning Rain") to Dylan. If there's such a thing as an alpha-male folkie, Lightfoot certainly fits the bill. Spanning the tongue-in-cheek chauvinism of 1965's "For Lovin' Me" and the cheatin' ways of "Sundown" to more introspective fare like "If You Could Read My Mind" and "Beautiful," this 20-track collection presents a concise primer on Lightfoot's career and craft. After his career peaked with one of the most unlikely top five hits ever, the gloom-laden 1976 narrative "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald," Lightfoot's production tailed off sharply, though this anthology's "Stay Loose" ('86) and "Restless" ('93) are testament to his enduring skills as a songwriter and performer. --Jerry McCulley
A Hundred Miles or More: A Collection features songs never before released on an Alison Krauss album with appearances by Sting, Brad Paisley, James Taylor, and includes the John Waite duet Missing You. A Hundred Miles or More carries the subtitle A Collection, and what a curious collection it is--cuts from soundtracks, side projects, and tribute albums, plus guest duets on other artists' albums and five previously unreleased tracks. In other words, this is a collection of Alison Krauss performances that have never appeared on an Alison Krauss album, though it holds together better than such a grab-bag approach might suggest. Highlights such as her duet with Brad Paisley on "Whiskey Lullaby" and her a cappella rendition of "Down to the River to Pray" from O Brother, Where Art Thou? will be familiar to most Krauss fans, though it's doubtful that many share her infatuation with retro rocker John Waite (with whom she revives his "Missing You" and duets on a cover of Don Williams's "Lay Down Beside Me."). Other projects represented range from Disney to the Chieftains to the Louvin Brothers (she duets with James Taylor on their "How's the World Treating You." There's minimal contribution from her Union Station band--making this a solo release by default--and little information to indicate whether the previously unreleased tracks were outtakes from earlier releases or recently recorded for this one. --Don McLeese More Alison Krauss Lonely Runs Both Ways Live Now That I've Found You: A Collection