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Various Artists

Austin City Limits Music Festival: 2003 Collection – 2004 (New West)

Reviewed by T.J. Simon

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All too often, live albums sound as if they were recorded with a Dictaphone hidden in someone's sock, but this collection of great performances from 2003's Austin City Limits Festival sounds crisp and fresh from the opening chords of R.E.M.'s "Bad Day." There's something for everyone to enjoy on this release that captures the exuberance and energy of an outdoor festival in one of America's finest music cities.

The kids will love tracks from Bright Eyes, Ben Harper and Jack Johnson while mom and dad will be pleased to catch up with Steve Winwood and Steve Earle. The neo-mullet crowd will get off on cuts from Kings of Leon and Drive-by Truckers. Abra Moore's "Melancholy Love" is the disc's only female voice, and fantastic instrumentals are included by Nickel Creek ("Smoothie Song") and Robert Randolph ("The March"). Jack Ingram and Martin Sexton also contribute enjoyable numbers to this beautifully-packaged "must have" collection.