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Various Artists

Papa Nez: A Loose Salute to the Work of Michael Nesmith – 2001 (Dren)

Reviewed by Sophie Best

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A good tribute album will send the listener running back to dust off the originals. This tribute to undervalued country rock songwriter and arranger, Mike Nesmith, does all that, and more. Just about every contribution on the disk does justice to the beauty of the songcraft - each lovingly reworked Nesmith gem only makes the breadth of his achievements more manifest, track by track.

Papa Nez goes one better, though - this compilation also evokes Nesmith's contemporaries. The songs are haunted by all manner of ghosts from the west coast of the 1970's - the Flying Burrito Brothers, Hearts and Flowers, Poco, Delaney & Bonnie and The Lovin' Spoonful all come to mind, which just goes to show how thoroughly the spirit of Nesmith's zeitgeist has pervaded the entire project.

The production is overseen by Niall Hood of DC-based band Sixty Acres, who contribute a very pretty and simple country-pop reading of "Nine Times Blue." Even when a bit of sheen (very California, in itself) creeps into the sound, as it does on veteran country rock session guitarist John Beland's version of "Some of Shelly's Blues," the rustic sincerity and ache of the song is never lost.

Other highlights include "You Just May Be The One" by the Hellecasters' John Jorgenson, the lazy, sun-kissed harmonies of Frog Holler on "Different Drum" and a simply glorious "Good Clean Fun" by Last Train Home.

Simplicity, affection and honesty are the keywords behind this project. Papa Nez would, no doubt, approve wholeheartedly. (Dren Records)