For a hit mainstream TV show, the NBC sitcom My Name Is Earl has uncommonly sharp and clever musical selections. According to a piece in Entertainment Weekly published not long after the show hit the air in 2005, star Jason Lee has some hand in selecting the music, which makes some sense -- a guy who made his pop culture debut in a Spike Jonze-directed Sonic Youth video and earned his stripes as one of Kevin Smith's best actors by all rights should have good musical taste, so the story made some sense. Yet no matter how much input he has, the mustachioed star clearly does not also function as the show's musical supervisor -- there's only so many hours in a week, after all -- but he may have helped set the tone for the show's musical selections, which are always strong, often amusing, and frequently unpredictable. Because of this, there was a lot of good stuff to choose from when it came time to assemble a soundtrack to coincide with the second season of My Name Is Earl. So much good stuff that a lot of it got left behind, but the songs that are most representative of the spirit of the show have survived: Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Gimme Three Steps," Rob Base's "It Takes Two," and two great Jerry Reed songs, "East Bound and Down" and "Amos Moses," plus such left-of-center selections as Sammy Davis, Jr.'s "Smoke! Smoke! Smoke! (That Cigarette)," los Lobos' "One Time One Night," and Harry Nilsson's "Joy," which illustrates the quirkiness that makes the show fun. Since this is a soundtrack targeted at new record-buyers, there are some new songs added for good measure -- mainly passable covers of songs used in their original versions on the show (Uncle Kracker does the Band's "The Weight," Matthew Sweet covers ELO's "Livin' Thing," Van Nuys predictably punks up Nena's "99 Red Balloons"), plus a thematically appropriate cover of John Lennon's "Instant Karma" by John Hiatt. None of these covers add anything to the original, but they don't hurt the flow of a soundtrack that is goofy, likeable, and reliably entertaining, just like the show itself.
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AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine