Various Artists

No Depression: What It Sounds Like, Vol. 1

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The release of No Depression: What It Sounds Like (Vol. 1) has an air of the Smithsonian Institute about it, suggesting that the 14-year-old genre can now be safely displayed for popular consumption. Luckily, however, the songs never sound like museum pieces. With the help of No Depression's -- the periodical -- editors Grant Alden and Peter Blackstock, Dualtone has gathered 13 tracks to help explain the most perplexing of musical questions: just what the heck does no depression sound like? The collection kicks off with bad boy Johnny Cash merging his country roots with Seattle grunge on Willie Nelson's "The Time of the Preacher." Another alternative country icon, Emmylou Harris, lends vocal support to Hayseed's rustic take of "Farther Along," creating a vocal mix as rough and ready as anything the Carter Family ever put on a breakable 78 rpm record. In-between, relative newcomers like Allison Moorer and Kevin Gordon/Lucinda Williams fashion a contemporary style with singer/songwriter roots, while Whiskeytown and Robbie Fulks/Kelly Willis sound like they've stepped out of a honky tonk circa 1951. Such disparate strands of rock, old-time, and contemporary folk have always made no depression something like the potpourri of genres, custom-made for everything that doesn't fit anywhere else. In this fashion, the music's audience seems to be made up of classic rock fans stuck in the early '70s and country fans who lean toward Hank Williams and Waylon Jennings. No Depression: What It Sounds Like is a solid collection for the initiate or longtime fan, and succeeds because it doesn't try to cram this elusive genre into a tidy category.

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