So you thought the tribute album trend was strictly a 20th-century phenomenon? Guess again. If the first quarter of 2002 is any indication, this year will be silly with salutes.
On January 15 alone, there are multi-artist homages to late R&B rising star Aaliyah and the Dixie Chicks from the Big Eye label, while Cleopatra honours stadium rockers Journey and, strangely enough, Fatboy Slim. On the blues side, influential blues guitarist Rev. Gary Davis gets the nod with Gary Davis Style (Inside Sounds), which features Maria Muldaur, Cephas & Wiggins, Philadelphia Jerry Ricks and others.
NASHVILLE SOUNDTRACK NASHVILLE SOUNDTRACK
One of the more creative tribute concepts is a remake of the film soundtrack to Robert Altman's 76 classic, Nashville, that Vancouver's Mint Records has slated for early February. Assembled by Corn Sister Carolyn Mark after being indoctrinated into the cult of Nashville through long-time pal Dave Lang's video reinforcement regimen, the project has been on her mind for four years. So why did it take so long to complete?
"I just had to wait for the people I wanted to be on it to play a show nearby so I could lure them into the studio," the ever-crafty Mark slyly cackles. Among the artists she snared for the alt-country Nashville recreation are her Corn Sisters co-conspirator Neko Case, Dottie Cormier, the Sadies' Dallas and Travis Good, Kelly Hogan, New Pornographer Carl Newman, Cindy Wolfe, Sylvia Kenny, Tolan McNeill and, of course, Dave Lang.
The music stands up remarkably well, and the performances are excellent, particularly Hogan's bluesy version of Dues and Case's Rolling Stone. There are tentative plans to tour the project in March, although that will depend on how well the CD is received.
"There are probably about 14 people in each town who will really be excited about this," jokes Mark. "We were thinking of taking out some ads that would say, 'You didn't see the movie, now don't buy the record!'"
I AM SAM I AM SAM
Another concept tribute with a film tie-in is the soundtrack to the new Sean Penn flick, I Am Sam, which boasts a star-stacked lineup singing tunes from the Lennon-McCartney songbook. Everyone involved plays it fairly straight, but there's still going to be demand for Sarah McLachlan's take on Blackbird, Eddie Vedder doing You've Got To Hide Your Love Away, Rufus Wainwright crooning Across The Universe and the Black Crowes bashing out Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds.
Topping the heap is Nick Cave's restrained Let It Be and Grandaddy's hilarious slacker shrug through Revolution. The comic high point, however unintended, is Paul Westerberg groaning Nowhere Man as only the reclusive former rock star could. Genius.
CAUGHT IN THE WEBBCAUGHT IN THE WEBB
In country circles, the most talked-about new release is the all-star salute to late Louisiana honky-tonk hero Webb Pierce called Caught In The Webb, due January 8 from Audium/KOCH.
When organizer Gail Davies put out the call for Webb Pierce covers, the offers quickly came rolling in, led by George Jones (who takes Yes I Know Why), Emmylou Harris (Wondering) and Willie Nelson (That's Me Without You), followed closely by Guy Clark (Honky Tonk Song), BR5-49 (There Stands The Glass), Dwight Yoakam (If You Were Me) and Allison Moorer (Back Street Affair).
SONGS OF SAHMSONGS OF SAHM
In a more cosmic vein, the Bottle Rockets pay respects to dear departed Texas Tornado Doug Sahm with Songs Of Sahm, which Bloodshot releases February 19. Not having a keyboardist in the band with a Vox Continental to pound à la Augie Meyers makes the Sir Douglas Quintet numbers a formidable challenge, but the Missouri roughnecks still manage to get at the trippy Tejano soul of Sahm's brilliant border music.
THE BACKSTABBERSTHE BACKSTABBERS
Closer to home, the Backstabbers return with their second self-released disc on February 2, Let The Sun Shine In, and it's a corker. While they're still on the traditional tip -- their swing through He Likes Liquor Better Than Me should raise some eyebrows on the bluegrass circuit -- the fuller-sounding new recording shows off more of the vocal and compositional prowess of frontmen Tom Parker and Bob Hannan.
Their tunes Right Out Loud, No Shortcut To Heaven and, especially, The Prayer Line -- which opens with the line "I read it on the Internet this morning..." -- manage to be relevant and contemporary without forsaking the roots country feel. These boys are going places.
Someone else who'll raise a ruckus in 2002 is DeGrassi-mad local rapper D-Sisive if his long-overdue debut disc, tentatively titled The Greatest Show On Earth, ever surfaces.
Snippets from the elaborately constructed circus-themed concept album produced by DJ Serious, Skam and Dan-E-O have been floating around since last March, when D-Sisive was saying, "There are a lot of big moves being made behind the scenes," but so far no date has been set.
Expect the album to be preceded by the release of his room-shaking D-Siggy joint, which rocked the house at his off-the-hook NXNE 2001 appearance in June. Watch out.
ALSO WORTH NOTINGALSO WORTH NOTING
CONCRETE BLONDE Group Therapy (Manifesto) January 15
HANK III Lovesick, Broke And Driftin' (Curb) January 22
KRS-ONE Spiritually Minded (In the Paint) January 22
MARY LOU LORD Live City Sounds (Rubric) January 22
TRIO MOCOTO Samba Rock (Six Degrees) January 22
KASEY CHAMBERS Barricades And Brickwalls (Warner) January 29
N.E.R.D. In Search Of... (Virgin) January 29
TEENAGE FANCLUB & JAD FAIR Words Of Wisdom And Hope (Alternative Tentacles) January 29
X-ECUTIONERS Built From Scratch (Loud/Sony) January 29
BRENDAN BENSON Lapalco (Star Time) March 3