Various Artists

Another Country, Vol. 2

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Agenda delves deeper into lonely-road melancholia and the alt.country bramble thicket on this, the second volume of its Another Country series. The English release only includes artists from North America. But the title is also a reference to the music's very nature. From the plaintive mandolin and bruised heart vocals of Okkervil River's "Westfall," to the tense stillness that defines contributions from Damien Jurado ("Abilene") and Songs: Ohia ("Steve Albini's Blues"), this set is more about the imagery, shadows, and moods of the country that is America. (Its stark duo-tone photography illustrates this.) The incredible "Rooster Moans" is here, taken from Iron & Wine's The Creek Drank the Cradle. It's joined by the more conventional alt.country ramble of Richard Buckner, Giant Sand, and -- of course -- Ryan Adams. Azure Ray ("November"), Hope Sandoval ("Clear Day"), and Black Heart Procession (the Camper Van Beethoven-ish "Sign in the Road") don't rely as much on the Americana backdrop, but they're still living with an eye toward that darkness in the pines. Another Country, Vol. 2 is a solid pickup for any explorers of the varying tributaries and two-tracks of 21st century country insurgency.

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