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Noteworthy CDs

Notable CDs | Five noteworthy recordings

Bronx in Blue

STYLE Country-blues standards for acoustic guitar and well-preserved Rock and Roll Hall of Fame voice.

WORLDVIEW "Some people think I grew up on Rock & Roll (not so). . . . In the early fifties-late at night, I'd tune into some southern radio station that somehow reached the Bronx, listening to The Blues" (from the notes).

OVERALL QUALITY A labor of love that's all love and very little labor.

Sampler Volume One

STYLE Part-traditional, part-contemporary folk.

CAUTIONS Some salty slang in the otherwise quite funny spoken-word-with-music tale of a carnivorous pig, "Punkin."

WORLDVIEW That no song is too traditional ("Danny Boy," "Oh Holy Night") not to be reinterpreted or set alongside an interpretation of Sting's "Fields of Gold."

OVERALL QUALITY Consisting of cream skimmed from her first six albums, this collection from the Brownfield, Maine, indie songstress goes from strength to strength.

The Essential Roy Orbison

STYLE Legendarily dreamy jukebox operettas.

WORLDVIEW That besides rebellion, lechery, and other tough-guy camouflage, early rock 'n' roll also acknowledged loneliness, heartbreak, and the humility that sometimes results therefrom.

OVERALL QUALITY Disc Two, which covers 1965-1989 while omitting Mr. Orbison's Traveling Wilburys' 1987 highlight "Not Alone Anymore," is spotty; Disc One, which covers 1956-1964, confirms his place among the greats.

Eleven Stories

STYLE Triple-A radio country-folk.

CAUTIONS Casual cursing ("It's All Over but the Cryin'").

WORLDVIEW "Do I believe in heaven? / Yeah, but I don't mean the stars. / I think it's all around us, / maybe not in this bar."

OVERALL QUALITY Coming from anyone, these exquisitely wrought, movingly sung explorations of life's little ups and downs would be impressive; coming from an in-law of a Dixie Chick, their apolitical nature is doubly refreshing.

Album 1

STYLE Black-humor-laced observations for acoustic guitar and pained voice, circa 1970.

WORLDVIEW That besides flower power, Eastern religion, and other sensitive-guy camouflage, post-Woodstock singer-songwriters were also capable of planting the seed of self-deprecating cynicism from which political incorrectness would later spring.

OVERALL QUALITY Mr. Wainwright's comedy and tragedy both became much sharper, but this is the album where they started.

Spotlight

Unlike many of the famous rock 'n' rollers who made Christian music in the late '70s and early '80s, Dion DiMucci kept his theological nose to the grindstone and eventually returned to the Roman Catholicism of his youth.

Now the 66-year-old Mr. DiMucci is also returning to the music he loved as a youth. And if the praises accumulating for his acoustic-blues Bronx in Blue (Razor & Tie) are any indication, he may yet receive one more round of high-profile accolades. Recorded in two days, the album is the most spontaneous-sounding of his career. "I've been carrying these blues and country gems around in my head for the last fifty years," he writes in the liner notes, and his intimate affection for the music shows.

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