Various Artists: The I-10 Chronicles 2: One More for the Road
The premise is that this CD is a musical journey along the I-10, a highway that stretches from Santa Monica, California to Florida, running roughly parallel to the Mexican border. Someone has tried to tie the country, folk, blues and Latin influences that contribute to "roots rock" together with this road through the American south, although these musicians and their talents are not so easy to pin down.
Despite the weak narrative effort to bind these artists together, the 15 songs here are a more than decent sampling of a genre of American music that has a hard time finding its way to radio. Here's a brief window into each of the tracks:
Dave Alvin: With a deep, rich voice like a lost country outlaw, you'd think Dave Alvin could do no wrong -� and in fact, some people do. The song "I'm a Lonesome Fugitive" � made famous by Merle Haggard � is polished to a guitar-showcasing sheen. First appearing on the musical map for his punk-rockabilly work with the Blasters and X, Alvin was born and raised in California.
Grant Lee Phillips: Former Grant Lee Buffalo frontman Phillips has made updated country his oeuvre. Now a part of the glamorous singer-songwriter set of the LA club Café Largo (with Aimee Mann and Jon Brian), he sings a wistful out-of-love song with Mexican-influenced spare guitar, bongos and accordion. Phillips lived in Stockton in his earlier days before making Los Angeles home.
Steve Forbert: In the '70s, somebody called him "the new Dylan"; despite his obvious talents, Dylan-level fame passed Forbert by as one record label after another dropped him. In a cruel twist of fate, he covers the Dylan tune "Watchin' the River Flow" here, carrying it off with aplomb and the help of a rollicking organ. Forbert was born in Mississippi, burned by New York City, and settled in Tennessee.
Garrison Starr: by the time she was 20, Garrison Starr was signed to Geffen record, touring singing her own songs. Here she sings Steve Forbert's "It Isn't Going to Be That Way" with a velvet voice and solid orchestration highlighted by accordion. Like Forbert, Starr was born in Mississippi and settled in Tennessee.
Bill and Bonnie Hearne: A well-seasoned duo, Bill and Bonnie Hearne were the Texas stars that Nanci Griffiths and Lyle Lovett went to hear when they were growing up. This cover of Robert Earl Keen's "Paint the Town Beige", which highlights their interweaving voices and Bill's guitar, tells a story that parallels their own: after playing on the Texas circuit for years, the Hearnes moved to rural New Mexico.
The Devil and Bunny Show Featuring Adam Duritz and Dave Immergluck: You may not know the name Immergluck, but these two make the distinct music of Counting Crows (vocals and slide guitar, respectively). The John Hiatt tune "Crossing Muddy Water" jumps and tumbles at their hands, pumped full of energy. Duritz moved from Northern California to Los Angeles, and chances are Immergluck makes his home in the City of Angels as well.
Raul Malo: The lead singer of the Mavericks, Malo has stepped out into a solo career recently, and here the effect is like the early days of rock and roll: big country sounds with a large posse of musicians and doo-wop backing vocals, combining to become almost rockabilly. Born in Miami of Cuban parents, Malo has made his home in Nashville.
Amy Correia: With just two records under her belt, you might understand why Correia is a bit show-offy. On her odd-choice medley of Rod Stewart and Bobby Womack, she lets her voice rip over gospel- and blues-tinged rock. Massachusetts-born Correia came to live in Los Angeles by way of New York City.
Chris Hillman and Herb Pedersen: A major figure in country-rock, Hillman was a founding member of both the Byrds and the flying Burrito Brothers. Here he joins more recent bandmate Herb Pedersen (The Desert Rose Band) for a kicked-back version of George Jones' "The Window Up Above" featuring slide guitar and some mandolin. Hillman is a Los Angeles native, where Pedersen also makes his home.
Cousin Lovers: This Los Angeles-based bluegrass outfit can swing and stomp, but it struggles without a label deal. Their self-penned song stands up nicely in this CD's esteemed company. Lead singer/songwriter Tim Ferguson was raised in Georgia but now lives, as do his bandmates, in Los Angeles.
John Hammond: Hammond's easy way around a vowel and relaxed enunciation sound almost as if he's smiling as he sings. Resonant vocals and a real blues feel are underscored by jazzy piano and maracas-based percussion on the Tom Waits song, "Fish in the Jailhouse." Hammond, who has been recording for more than 40 years, was born and raised in New York.
The Blind Boys of Alabama: Founded in 1939, they are indeed blind and from Alabama. Here they tear out a raw and rocking gospel number with heavy percussion and tumbling, rough vocals that could knock down walls. Oddly enough, "Just Wanna See His Face" is a Rolling Stones song.
Tommy Jordan: The lead singer of Geggy Tah, Tommy Jordan sings intimately, with a bluesy whisper, accompanying himself only on guitar. Perhaps Geggy Tah fans won't be underwhelmed by what sounds like a throwaway track. Jordan hails from Pomona, California.
Jim White: There is full rock instrumentation on White's track, "Handcuffed to a Fence in Mississippi" from his album No Such Place, seasoned with slide guitar and wry humor. White was born and raised in Pensacola, Florida.
Bobby Bare, Jr.: This loose rock version of Neil Young's "Sugar Mountain" is more raucous and grungy than country. Bare's dad (Bobby Bare) is something of a country legend, and Bare Jr. has quite a task ahead getting out from under his father's shadow. Covering a classic Neil Young song is not going to do it. Bare Jr. lives in Nashville.