Various Artists

Both Sides Now: The Spirit of Americana

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Both Sides Now collects two discs' worth of contemporary artists who work loosely under the genre label Americana, although it is difficult to imagine some of the these acts actually falling into that drawer, like the Flaming Lips, for example, whose "Do You Realize" is included here. That said, this is a pretty cool anthology with a lot of highlights, starting with the first track, Bob Dylan's "High Water (For Charley Patton)." The woefully underappreciated Rodney Crowell contributes "Ballad of a Teenage Queen," while Steve Earle brings his courageous (and controversial) "Ballad of John Walker," and the two songs seem to sort of bookend the American experience. BR5-49 does a loving cover of Gram Parsons' "Hickory Wind." The Flaming Lips' erstwhile cousin Mercury Rev, another band that works "in the spirit of Americana" rather than in Americana itself, is represented here by the pretty "Little Rhymes." A fine introduction to some interesting artists who seem to never show up on MTV ( or on CMT, either, for that matter).

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