Various Artists

Timeless: Hank Williams Tribute

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Many tribute albums act as secret promotional tools for the individual labels to push some of their lesser-known artists on the coattails of their heavy hitters. Fortunately, nothing could be further from the truth on Lost Highway's all-star tribute to Hank Williams, Timeless. Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, Tom Petty, Emmylou Harris, and Keith Richards are among the seasoned performers who offer their heartfelt interpretations of Williams' songs, as well as inspired choices from younger artists, including Beck, Ryan Adams, and the grandson of the man being celebrated, Hank III. The songs themselves range from Sheryl Crow's faithful re-recording of "Long Gone Lonesome Blues" to Beck's stripped-down and quirky collaboration with producer Jon Brion on "Your Cheatin' Heart." While the more traditional country songs are entertaining and well-done, the real strong points are the looser, more raw contributions. Keith Richards' boozy rip through "You Win Again" is as intimate and stumbling as ole Hank on his last nights, and hard-livin' torchbearer Ryan Adams' living-room recording of "Lovesick Blues" resonates with the singer's own youthful weariness. The album ends with Lucinda Williams' (no relation) sparse and chilling "Cold, Cold Heart" and Johnny Cash's tender recitation of "I Dreamed About Mama Last Night." While many tribute collections seem disjointed and disappointing, Timeless pulls together some of the most interesting artists available, and their performances, while varied, all display a passionate devotion to the music of one of country's true legends.

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