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Notable CDs

Notable CDs | Four new or recent pop-music releases reviewed by Arsenio Orteza

Essential Alison Krauss

Released for some reason only in the U.K. (maybe because Krauss isn't yet the big deal over there that she is here) but easily available to anyone anywhere with an internet connection and a credit card, this latest Krauss compilation is just eclectic enough (a few live versions, a cut from her duet album with Robert Plant) to function as either an ideal introduction to her last decade of recording or a pleasant, if not quite revelatory, mix disc for longtime fans too busy to make their own.

Cody McCarver

Fans of this Confederate Railroad keyboardist, beware: His "new" album is really 2006's Peace, Love & Coondawgs with a Confederate Railroad cover where "Redneck Love Gone Bad" used to be and a mawkish new original for a lead-off cut. But as this album didn't exactly set sales records the first time around, more power to him. McCarver is nothing special covering Rod Stewart ("Tonight's the Night") or emulating Hank Williams Jr., but he does justice to "Red Flag" (wise, funny) and "Hard to Be Honest" (wise, sad).

The Best of A.R. Rahman

As one might suspect from the subtitle-"Music and Magic from the Composer of Slumdog Millionaire"-Legacy released this 14-song compilation of highlights from A.R. Rahman's internationally acclaimed oeuvre to capitalize on Slumdog Millionaire's recent triumph at the Academy Awards. As one might not suspect, familiarity with the Bollywood blockbusters from which most of these selections come is no prerequisite for enjoying their infectious world-music hooks, rhythms, and singing. Of course, as there's no lyric sheet let alone English translations, some familiarity with Hindi wouldn't hurt.

Ghosts of the Past

Two discs, 100 minutes, and 31 songs, 27 of them Jason Martin originals, the whole shebang intended as a thank-you from this long-running indie Christian band to its fans. Or so the scuttlebutt says. What's just as likely: Martin realized that by compiling these mostly complementary obscurities in one place he could attract new listeners to his intensely subdued, beguilingly oblique take on faith-based musical expression, listeners who might've never expected to hear competent covers of the Smiths, Compulsion, the Church, and Bread from a Christian band.

Spotlight

When Columbia/Legacy released the lavishly packaged, thoroughly annotated three-disc You Ain't Talkin' to Me: Charlie Poole and the Roots of Country Music in 2005, the hard-living country-music pioneer it commemorated had been dead for over 70 years and forgotten for many of them. He had not, however, been forgotten by Loudon Wainwright III, the indefatigable wiseacre folkie whose lavishly packaged, thoroughly annotated two-disc High Wide & Handsome: The Charlie Poole Project (2nd Story Sound) picks up where Columbia/Legacy's set left off.

Whether covering songs recorded by Poole or singing Poole-inspired songs written for the project by himself or his producer Dick Connette, Wainwright-who at 62 has outlived his hero by 23 years so far-sees enough of himself in Poole and vice versa that ultimately it matters less who wrote "I'm the Man Who Rode the Mule Around the World," "Old Ballyhoo," or "The Great Reaping Day" (a hymn) than that someone is singing them at all.

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