1. HERE FOR THE PARTY
1 week on chart
Something-for-everyone country-by numbers.
"Redneck Woman" and the title cut (for casual cursing and/or celebrating white-trashiness at its most slatternly).
"Well, I'm an eight-ball-shooting, double-fisted-drinking son of a gun. / I wear my jeans a little tight / just to watch the boys come undone."
The voice is all right but not very country, raising suspicions that fellas may be buying the disc for the figure-flattering booklet photos.
2. WHEN THE SUN GOES DOWN
15 weeks on chart
Dwight Yoakam with the rough edges sanded, polished, and shellacked.
"He was raised to think like his dad, / narrow mind full of hate on the road to nowhere fast / till the grace of God got in the way. / Then he saw the light and hit his knees and cried and said a prayer, / rose up a brand new man."
As catchy as it is superficial.
3. GOLDEN ROAD
84 weeks on chart
Country so scrawny it's cute (and vice versa).
"You Look Good in My Shirt" (intimations of immorality).
"Call it an angel, / call it a muse, / and call it karma that you've got comin' to you. / What's the difference? / What's in a name? / What matters most is never ever losin' faith" ("You're Not Alone Tonight").
As superficial as it is catchy.
4. SHOCK'N Y'ALL
28 weeks on chart
Country-rock, rock-country, rock-rock, country-country.
"I Love This Bar," "The Taliban Song" (profanity), "Sweet" (debauchery fondly anticipated), "Nights I Can't Remember, Friends I'll Never Forget," "Weed with Willie" (debauchery fondly recalled), "Whiskey Girl" (casual cursing).
"Don't my baby look good in them blue jeans? / Tight on the top with a belly button ring, / a little tattoo somewhere in between."
5. VAN LEAR ROSE
3 weeks on chart
Kentucky-holler country, the high-profile involvement of the Detroit garage-rocker Jack White notwithstanding.
"I've heard people say, / 'Why is my child blind?' / ... Our blessed Father who gives us life / has the power to take it away. / There's no reason for what He does. / God makes no mistakes."
Funny, feisty, spunky, and funky-in short, no mere imitation of Rick Rubin doing Johnny Cash.
In the spotlight
Ancient Echoes (World Library Publications), the latest album from the San Antonio Vocal Arts Ensemble, is the musical equivalent of pouring old wine into old wineskins. Ecumenically subtitled "Music from the Time of Jesus and Jerusalem's Second Temple," it collects Aramaic prayers, Levitical music, and Essene chants, sets them to ancient melodies and instrumentation (ouds, guimbiris, kinnors, shabbabahs, rabbabahs, et al.), and painstakingly authenticates them in a CD booklet that's more textbook than libretto.
Admittedly, not every tin-eared inhabitant of our world will come to such a project with ears to hear. Those willing to give this music the time it deserves, however, will not only find the mists of time dispersing but also the realization dawning that from the burnt-sienna cover art to the music's original-language lyrics (e.g., the Ten Commandments-recounting "Wa y'daber Elohim [And God Spoke]"), this album is the real soundtrack to The Passion of the Christ.