Various Artists

Lowe Country: The Songs of Nick Lowe

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It takes no great leap of the imagination to picture Nick Lowe the subject of a country-oriented tribute album. Ever since Kippington Lodge traded in their flared trousers for flannel, turning in their Yes 45s for Band LPs, and renaming themselves Brinsley Schwarz, Lowe has specialized in roots rock, taking a boozy, speedy detour during the punk era but returning to the '80s and never leaving it behind. The artists on Lowe Country: Songs of Nick Lowe largely stick to songs Nick wrote during his august third act as a dignified crooner or revamping Stiff-era ravers into down-home stompers, but the Brinsleys' "Don't Lose Your Grip On Love" is given a nicely mournful reading by the Parson Red Heads. Things never get too sad on Lowe Country, nor do they get too sprightly: Chatham County Line turn "Heart of the City" into a bit of rollicking bluegrass, JEFF the Brotherhood keep "Marie Provost" percolating while decorating it in tastefully fuzzy guitars, and Griffin House play "Crackin' Up" pretty much like Rockpile played it. Mostly, Lowe Country is clean and polite, keeping the focus squarely on Lowe's expertly crafted songs, the singers themselves rarely getting in the way of the words or melody. Sometimes things get a little too sweetly sleepy (Amanda Shires' "I Love the Sound of Breaking Glass" comes to mind), but at its best -- Caitlin Rose's "Lately I've Let Things Slide," Ron Sexsmith's "Where Is My Everything," Lori McKenna's "What's Shakin' On the Hill," Hayes Carll's excellent "I'm Gonna Start Living Again iIf It Kills Me" -- this is a handsome, enjoyable listen.

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