Style: Aesthetically ambitious, socio-political folk-rock.
Cautions: "Hot Knives" (profanity).
Worldview: Generally in keeping with Conor Oberst's loud-and-proud leftism, but not without a certain acknowledgment that there's plenty of blame to spread around.
Overall quality: Scattershot wit ("I had a lengthy discussion about The Power of Myth / with a post-modern author who didn't exist") and wisdom ("[N]ever trust a heart that is so bent it can't break") as its own reward.
Style: Soul / jazz / R&B singing meets modernized Spector / Motown production.
Cautions: "Me and Mr. Jones," "Just Friends," "Tears Dry on Their Own" (obscenities); the title cut (crudity).
Worldview: "They tried to make me go to rehab but I said 'no, no, no.'"
Overall quality: Above-average urban-music-with-roots for therapists, social workers, slummers, and anyone else (inner-city missionaries?) who needs a grimy account of the life of a substance-abusing libido slave.
Style: Soft folk, country, and pop, five new ones and 11 compiled from Alison Krauss' cameos on soundtracks, tributes, and other people's albums.
Worldview: Implicitly Christian when not explicitly so, with sorrow that's clearly the wages of sin.
Overall quality: As considerate as it is luminous-the second Krauss "collection" to avoid greatest-hits redundancy by gathering performances it would be quite expensive for fans to gather on their own.
Style: Eighty-seven percent acoustic live hits, 13 percent spoken song introductions.
Worldview: Relatively evenhanded coming just two years after Woodstock, with the juxtaposition of "The Needle and the Damage Done" and "Ohio" implying a connection between self-destructive and other-destructive impulses.
Overall quality: Holds up pretty well given that it's Young's seventh live album consisting of material available elsewhere and that it follows his second greatest-hits collection by only three years.
Style: Self-consciously arty, subconsciously hooky post-rock.
Cautions: "Florida," "Parting of the Sensory," "Education," "Spitting Venom," "People as Places as People," "Steam Engenius" (profanity and/or cursing).
Worldview: Confused, semi-articulate, apparently unhappy.
Overall quality: The last quarter decade of underbelly rock as mixed in a blender and poured down the throat of someone made desperate by the realization that if he quits adding to it he'll have to get a real job.
Like Rosanne Cash, her only serious competition, Alison Krauss has never made a weak album. Unlike Cash or anyone else, Krauss has resisted the temptation to fulfill the compilation clause of her recording contract by merely tacking a handful of unreleased songs onto a body of work that her fans already own. Of the 10 albums and one TV special represented on A Hundred Miles or More: A Collection (Rounder), only her contribution to the O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack is likely to be redundant.
Krauss is also uncommonly generous, showcasing little-known performers (two compositions by Julie Lee) and long-forgotten has-beens (two duets with John Waite). One cavil: The hokey "Sawing on the Strings," the overt bluegrassiness of which stands awkwardly out given the album's otherwise meditatively modern gestalt, could've been replaced by her excellent performance of Ricky Nelson's "Anyone Else But You" as recorded with the Flying Burrito Brothers on their 1999 album Sons of the Golden West.