Tribute albums always have dodgy prospects about them, since it's quite rare to find another artist who can either capture what's worthwhile about a band or perform their music in significantly different ways. Given the contrast between U2's first decade of music and your average bluegrass group, prospects for decent recording seem even more remote. However, the tracks on Pickin' on U2 turn out to be fairly good. While there is inherent humor in a bluegrass group playing U2 songs -- all of which are instrumentals, possibly so that none of the members have to perform vocals with arms above their head while swaying in that arena rock style -- the band never seems to fall prey to ultimate level of jokieness that could result. The album is produced in an ultra-clean style, making it resemble something you'd hear over the PA in the coffee shop of some large bookstore chain. While this results in a comfortable recording, it never matches the vitality of U2 in their earlier albums. Of course, by focusing on the Irish band's first decade of recorded output, the bulk of U2's more unfortunate later output is thankfully avoided. At any rate, the album seems to be best for U2 fans, albeit ones with open minds who could accept the presence of banjos on some of their cherished hits.
Pickin' on U2: A Bluegrass Tribute Review
by Jeremy Salmon