Leftover Salmon

O Cracker, Where Art Thou?

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It's not exactly an outgrowth of the O Brother, Where Art Thou? phenomenon, nor is it quite an "unplugged" set, but this album does offer stripped-down, partially acoustic arrangements of songs better known in rock versions. On this session, Cracker members David Lowery and Johnny Hickman sing a group of familiar Cracker songs that have appeared previously on the group's albums, backed by the alternative country band Leftover Salmon. So, for example, leadoff track "Get off This" from Kerosene Hat becomes a bluegrass/reggae number, while "Eurotrash Girl," which follows, becomes a country-waltz with a plunking banjo playing along. Cracker's oddball lyrics get greater emphasis in these arrangements, but Lowery and Hickman are careful to sing them straightforwardly, as if they were no more unusual than the words to the average country song. And some of those words are given new shades of meaning in this context. Now that "Teen Angst" is being played as a fast-paced bluegrass breakdown, its refrain, "'Cause what the world needs now/Is another folksinger/Like I need a hole in my head," comes off more wry and less smug than it did on Cracker's self-titled debut album, as each chorus is followed by extensive soloing. O Cracker, Where Art Thou? provides a different way of hearing Cracker's catalog that may help a new audience recognize the quality of the group's songs. And Leftover Salmon provides plenty of good picking.

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