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Various Artists

Cracker Barrel Presents Songs of the Year – 2006 (Cracker Barrel)

Reviewed by Tim FitzPatrick

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While past Cracker Barrel releases came through collaboration with the National Council for Traditional Arts, their latest focuses on mainstream country music. This collection features recent recordings of songs that have won either a Grammy or the CMA Song of the Year Award.

The disc mainly plays it safe. Blake Shelton's "The Gambler" and Lonestar's "City of New Orleans" are faithful to earlier versions. Trisha Yearwood's rendition if "Back Home Again" feels more confined than John Denver's, but retains its warmth. George Jones shows he can still bring it on "Murder on Music Row," collaborating on Dierks Bentley. Willie Nelson and Jack Ingram sing Roger Miller's 1964 hit "Dang Me."

One of the more interesting collaborations comes from Deanna Carter and Heart. Their understated delivery of Vince Gill's "Go Rest High On That Mountain" is a highlight. Gill penned two other songs here, with Jo Dee Messina tackling the big chorus of "When I Call Your Name," and Jamie O'Neal and Michael McDonald providing an easy-listening treatment of "I Still Believe in You."

While the compilation breaks little new ground, the songs and performances are strong enough to offer something to most country listeners.