Various Artists

Nashville Outlaws: A Tribute to Mötley Crue

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In their heyday, Mötley Crüe stood so far apart from the Music City it wouldn't have come as a surprise that they never played Nashville but, as they say, strange times make strange bedfellows. In 2014, there's a generation of country singers raised on AOR rock and, more importantly, many of the teenage fans of the Crüe now buy country instead of metal, so the time is right for Nashville Outlaws, a tribute record that captures the Venn diagram of where hair metal meets rocking country. It is, perhaps inevitably, a bit of a mess. Surprisingly, there's not much macho bluster here. A couple of the hardest tunes are given to bands known for their gentle touch -- the Eli Young Band reworks "Don't Go Away Mad (Just Go Away)" so it has a bit of a groove but not much grit, but Rascal Flatts still sounds bound for the dentist office, no matter how much distortion is piled on the guitars -- while Justin Moore is saddled with a mock-duet with Vince Neil on "Home Sweet Home," and Brantley Gilbert sings "Girls Girls Girls" as if he was still hungover from "Bottoms Up." Better is Gretchen Wilson digging into "Wild Side" and Big & Rich, who slow "Same Ol' Situation (S.O.S.)" down but find a bit of a spark. The same can be said for LeAnn Rimes, who turns "Smokin' in the Boys Room" into a backporch jam, an imaginative spin that touches on the blues roots of Brownsville Station's original, but it's overshadowed by the wild, wonderful Tex-Mex revision of "Dr. Feelgood" by the Mavericks. Raul Malo and company hit a sweet spot for tribute albums: taking a beloved song and making it entirely their own. The Mavericks sound like outlaws, but elsewhere on Nashville Outlaws, the acts either are cautious (Darius Rucker's "Time for a Change") or are saddled with latter-day Crüe material that nobody knows (Aaron Lewis uses this to his advantage on "Afraid," Florida Georgia Line less so on "If I Die Tomorrow"). Maybe it doesn't hold together but, then again, there never was a clear pathway for this tribute to proceed anyway. The Crüe and country may share some common ground, but it's ungainly and only intermittently appealing, as this odd record makes clear.

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