Various Artists

Lost Highway: Lost and Found, Vol. 1

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Lost & Found is the first compilation of material from Lost Highway, the boutique label founded by Music City power broker Luke Lewis to sponsor cred-heavy singers and songwriters who are a little bit country and a little bit, well, not Nashville. What is one of the most powerful guys in the city doing helming a label full of literate genre outlaws? Well, that's an argument best left for a barbecue and a bucket of Budweiser. Whatever the boardroom machinations, there's no cutting down the strength of Lost Highway's roster, and Lost & Found is the perfect introduction to that fact. Heavyweights like Willie Nelson and Johnny Cash turn in performances akin to or from their recent work, while the perennially great Lucinda Williams appears with the bluesy U.K. B-side "Buick Blues." Label poster boy Ryan Adams stops by, both on his own and with Whiskeytown (the unreleased "Choked Up"), and the label's lesser-known artists also make a showing. Kathleen Edwards' "Hockey Skates" stands out with its shimmering electric guitar and her sultry voice, which suggests a slurred Amy Ray, but is all Edwards' own. Tift Merritt, too, points to Lost Highway's strong future -- beguiling, but with a streak of self-assured confidence in her songwriting, Merritt might be every man's fantasy Annie Oakley. She seems to understand this -- "You're not my boyfriend," she sings. "Just make a little trouble over me." While contributions from label umbrella transplants UnAmerican and Bright Eyes aren't as strong, Lost & Found is still a spectacular stretch of Lost Highway that gives fans some unreleased and live gems, while acting as a helpful welcome center for new travelers.

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