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The Music

Culture | The Top 5 Country CDs for the week ending March 3, according to Billboard

Issue: "California school shooting," March 17, 2001
1
O Brother, Where Art Thou?
Various Artists 11 weeks on chart
STYLE
Old-time country, folk, gospel, and blues.

BEST CUTS
"Down to the River to Pray" (Alison Krauss), "Big Rock Candy Mountain" (Harry McClintock), "You Are My Sunshine" (Norman Blake), "O Death" (Ralph Stanley)

WORLDVIEW
Like wine, music rooted in the truth gets better with age.

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OVERALL QUALITY
Heard simply as music, these down-home performances of traditional material function as bearers of good news. As the soundtrack to the Coen Brothers film of the same name, they sometimes function ironically, their "sincerity" mere code for hypocrisy.

2
I Need You
LeAnn Rimes 3 weeks on chart
STYLELots of easy-listening pop, very little country.

BEST CUTS
"But I Do Love You," "I Need You," "You Are"

WORLDVIEW
That true happiness consists in surrendering to one's romantic longings and in getting others to surrender to them too.

OVERALL QUALITY
Although Miss Rimes has disavowed this album as an unauthorized attempt by Curb Records to cash in on her side projects and never-to-be-released material, there are-with the exception of the Elton John duet-no duds, and her voice keeps getting better.

3
Coyote Ugly
Various Artists 29 weeks on chart
STYLE
Lots of pop, very little country.

BEST CUTS
"But I Do Love You," "Please Remember" (LeAnn Rimes), "Didn't We Love" (Tamara Walker)

WORLDVIEW
These songs have no worldview as such, but the film does: that working as a sex object at a metropolitan bar is a legitimate way for an aspiring singer-songwriter to pay her dues.

OVERALL QUALITY
Configured as both a LeAnn Rimes vehicle and a pop sampler, this soundtrack succeeds as neither.

4
Breathe
Faith Hill 67 weeks on chart
STYLE
Pop-country.

BEST CUTS
"I Got My Baby," "The Way You Love Me"

WORLDVIEW
She sings, "Every knee will bow / Sin will have no trace / In the glory of His amazing grace," and she relishes her role as wife and mother; if only she'd relish more clothing during her photo shoots.

OVERALL QUALITY
Some might wish she'd kept "Let's Make Love" between her husband and herself, but the other songs purvey a full-bodied wholesomeness that deserves all the exposure it can get.

5
Greatest Hits
Tim McGraw 13 weeks on chart
STYLE
Slick country-rock, country-pop.

BEST CUTS
"Please Remember Me," "She Never Lets It Go to Her Heart," "Indian Outlaw"

WORLDVIEW
Ambivalent-torn between celebrating the power of women to civilize men ("My Next Thirty Years") and their power to drive men wild ("Down on the Farm").

OVERALL QUALITY
Some might wish he'd kept "Let's Make Love" between his wife and himself and replaced the sentimentally randy "Down on the Farm" with the sharper "Seventeen," but most of these songs would pass muster with Promise Keepers.

IN THE SPOTLIGHT
Rodney Crowell has long been an unassuming but potent force in country music. A member of Emmylou Harris's band in the mid-'70s, he went solo in '78, married Roseanne Cash in '79 (eventually producing four of her albums), and wrote numerous hits for others and himself. In 1988 his LP Diamonds and Dirt (Columbia) became the first country album to yield five No. 1 singles, yet today country radio barely plays him. "Self-salesmanship is not one of my better qualities," he admitted to WORLD. "I'd probably be a bigger star if it were." His new album, The Houston Kid (Sugar Hill), concerns his turbulent Texas upbringing. By bearing down on the particulars of a childhood lived on the wrong side of the tracks, Mr. Crowell illuminates and universalizes the hardships and shortcomings of poor whites without trashing them up or whitewashing them down. What did his mother, to whose memory he dedicates the album, think of his going public with such private pain? "She was cool," he said. "She understood the artist's process enough to know that the truth is the most powerful thing in art."

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