What does alternative country music sound like? The people at No Depression magazine know it when they hear it. And it sounds like this -- 13 tracks celebrating the publication's decade of providing a gateway to truer, simpler alternatives to the "Nash Vegas" trappings of commercial country music. Style-wise, this includes a chance meeting of Johnny Cash and Seattle grunge heroes; the ramblin' hills-rockin' of Buddy Miller and Doug Sahm; the plaintive ballads and fiddle waltzes of Neko Case, Alejandro Escovedo, and Whiskeytown; and the Carter Family's timeless, acoustic "No Depression in Heaven." Lyrically, the classic "done me wrong" themes are revived, from Allison Moorer's blue "Is Heaven Good Enough for You?" to Robbie Fulks's and Kelley Willis's tune of pun and suffering, "Parallel Bars." The duets -- Kevin Gordon with Lucinda Williams, son-of-a-preacher-man Hayseed with Emmylou Harris -- are gritty, pretty stunners. And there's a good-timey tribute to Mickey Newbury, the late and too-often forgotten songwriter to the Willies and Waylons. While this CD might not provide a crisp definition of alt-country, the tribute points to the answer of another question: why we definitely need alternative outlets like No Depression.
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