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Various Artists

Down to the Promised Land: 5 Years of Bloodshot Records – 2000 (Bloodshot)

Reviewed by Stuart Munro

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This sprawling, two-disc party of a record comes, suitably enough, with a birthday salutation from Robbie Fulks, sung in his best yokelized Adam Sandler voice: "There's a little place up Chicago way/where country punk came alive/They birthed it, nursed it, turned it loose/And now Bloodshot's turning five." Like all parties, there's some people at this one that you probably won't want to spend a lot of time with, but enough that you will to make it well worth showing up.

The guests run the gamut: long-time friends from the label's roster, know-'em-to-see-'em faces who appeared on the various Bloodshot comps - Duane Jarvis, Hazeldine, Texas Rubies - and first-time acquaintances like the Supersuckers, Johnny Dowd and Giant Sand. There's personages both legendary (Graham Parker, who teams up with the Waco Brothers to tear through the Wacos' "See Willy Fly By" and Chip Taylor) and foreign (The Roughnecks, from Germany and The Unholy Trio from parts unearthly).

Some of the brightest candles on the cake: Cornell Hurd's rave-up "Here Comes My Ball and Chain;" Anna Fermin's low-moaning rendition of "Oh, Lonesome Me;" the Andre Williams/Sally Timms/Sadies spell-challenged soul-shaker "Glue;" Kelly Hogan's lightly swinging cover of Paul Burch's "Thirteen;" Alejandro Escovedo continuing to work out his Stones jones on "Evening Gown;" The Hollisters rocking tight on "Roses Are Blooming," Bare Jr rocking sloppy on "Guitar Playing Woman" and the Grievous Angels rocking country on "Hang Your Head In Shame;" and Red Star Belgrade (perhaps serving as label historian/prognosticator?), who finish things up with AC/DC's "Highway to Hell." Outshining them all is Mike Ireland's "I'd Like To," a thing of breathtaking, fragile beauty. Some love 'em and some don't, but there's no doubt that Bloodshot Records has made its mark.