Various Artists

For a Decade of Sin: 11 Years of Bloodshot Records

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In 1999, the folks at Bloodshot Records gave themselves a well-deserved pat on the back for lasting five years and releasing over 50 records in the notoriously treacherous waters of indie rock with the double-disc anthology Down to the Promised Land: 5 Years of Bloodshot Records. Six years later, Bloodshot continues to thrive as America's bravest and nerviest roots music label, and they've decided to throw another double-disc party on For a Decade of Sin: 11 Years of Bloodshot Records. The label's second birthday anthology is a considerably more ambitious and forward-thinking release than the fine Down to the Promised Land, and plays like a bigger and better variation on Bloodshot's debut release, the 1994 compilation For a Life of Sin. Just as For a Life of Sin was less about celebrating the birth of a new label than providing a platform for a handful of worthy country-influenced rock bands that deserved more attention than they were getting, For a Decade of Sin features nearly as many non-Bloodshot acts as it does artists from their own roster in a loose but emphatic effort to chronicle the broad range of music they love. Running from the steely traditionalism of Ralph Stanley and Paul Burch's duet on "Little Glass of Wine" to the whacked-out twang of Bobby Bare, Jr.'s cover of Jane's Addiction's "Ocean Size" and the joie de vivre of Wayne Hancock and Hank III trading verses on "Juke Joint Jumping" to the beautiful darkness of Carla Bozulich's "Lonesome Roads," this collection gives the lie to the notion of Bloodshot's alt-country as a narrowly defined collision of punk and country & western, and illustrates how many varieties of great music this label has embraced. And with great new tunes from the Minus 5, My Morning Jacket, the Old 97's, the Yayhoos, Mary Lou Lord, Richard Buckner, and Blanche on deck, this set isn't a label sampler but a declaration of the state of the twang-conscious union, and without the jokey asides like "Bloodshot's Turning Five" that marred the first anniversary set. In short, if you have any interest at all in the roots-oriented side of contemporary music, this set is outstanding listening and should welcome you to a few acts you've needed to hear. Let's just hope Bloodshot can keep doing this stuff for another decade.

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