Various Artists

Beyond Country: The Best of Alt Country

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Subtitling this compilation The Best of Alt-Country would lead listeners to believe that there might actually be some alternative country performers on the CD. Okay, maybe that's a bit harsh, but while Alison Krauss, Jerry Jeff Walker, Buck Owens, John Hiatt, and Don Williams are all spectacular performers, lumping them in as alt-country seems to be missing the mark. To be fair, Steve Earle, BR5-49, Iris DeMent, Junior Brown, and Lucinda Williams all make appearances, showcasing their uniquely "alternative" brands of soulful, introspective country music, which is a million miles away from the Nashville hitmaking machine. There isn't a bad tune on the record (although it could be argued that Rosanne Cash's version of "Tennessee Flat-Top Box" isn't nearly as rule-breaking as her father's), but many of them have a slicked-up sound that is usually more associated with the contemporary side of country music. A little more grit and innovation would have made this a more fitting compilation -- that and some tunes by Gillian Welch, Richard Buckner, Robbie Fulks, and the Flatlanders, and maybe then Time-Life would have an alt-country collection to be proud of.

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