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Various Artists

Heartworn Highways – 2006 (HackTone)

Reviewed by Jason MacNeil

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At a time when Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson were considered outlaws in country music, singer-songwriters like Steve Earle, Rodney Crowell, John Hiatt, Guy Clark and Townes Van Zandt were rebels in the own right, creating their own "country" music.

This disc, a companion to the documentary of the same name, features 19 songs mixed with dialogue from the film. The aforementioned singers represent the majority of tunes, with Clark's simple but gorgeous "L.A. Freeway" and the catchy "Texas Cookin'" capturing the Austin scene three decades ago.

Meanwhile, the late great Townes Van Zandt performs the dark "Waitin' 'Round To Die" and the engaging "Pancho And Lefty."

Other highlights are the swampy "Ohoopee River Bottomland" by Larry Jon Wilson that recalls Mac Davis. David Allan Coe hits pay dirt with his rich timbre on "I Still Sing The Old Songs" as well as the Tex-Mex flavored "River." Crowell gives a warm, folksy effort on the boogie-based "Bluebird Wine."

The low point might be Gamble Rogers and his boring schtick during "Charlie's Place (Gamble's Story)." But with Hiatt's tender rendition of "One For The One," you quickly forget that mistake. The icing on the cake has to be a then 21-year-old Steve Earle shining on "Darlin' Commit Me" and "Mercenary Song."