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Various Artists

Traveller soundtrack – 1997 (Asylum)

Reviewed by Roy Kasten

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These 18 songs make for an odd collection for an odd movie, part tense caper flick, part comedic romance, based in the lives of a nomadic, southern community of Welsh immigrants.

It's up to the vocalists to pull off these sometimes cliched, sometimes touching covers. Randy Travis's stately take on "King of the Road" is a highlight, wonderfully infectious, down to the oom-pah-pahish backing vocals.

However the soundtrack tries to blend household HNC voices like Bryan White and Thrasher Shiver with considerably more gifted and traditional voices like Jimmie Dale Gilmore and the Cox Family. It doesn't work, though the juxtaposition instantly reveals what the former lacks - vocal ingenuity and emotional mettle. Fortunately, Mandy Barnett turns in three moving performances, especially the unbearably torchy "Dark Moon." k.d. Lang rips up "Seven Lonely Days" and cult favorite Tina and the B Side Movement offers a raspy, gritty take on the candy country classic "Sweet Nothins." Other uptempo numbers, like Lou Ann Barton's "Te-Ni-Nee-Ni-Nu," are really just huffy jams, rather than inspired interpretations.

Still, strip away the four or five bar band by-products on this collection, and you have a pleasant picture of contemporary country voices digging into classic material.