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Various Artists

L.A. County Line – 1998 (Strawdog)

Reviewed by Stuart Munro

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CDs by Various Artists

It's tempting to view this compilation as a Nineties update of the seminal "Town South of Bakersfield"* issues of 10-plus years ago. A couple of "TSOB" alumnae (Rosie Flores and Anne Harvey from volumes 1 and 2, respectively) even show up here.

Like most compilations, this one's a mixed bag, with a few gems amid workmanlike and/or forgettable efforts and the occasional obnoxious lump of coal - the Groovy Rednecks' "Born that Way" being the leading contender in this category. The tracks included cover a range of styles: honky-tonk, hillbilly, country rock, rockabilly and roots rock. Among the keepers: The Lucky Stars' hillbilly groove on "Everybody's Fool," Russell Scott's crooning on "Let's Start Over," Chris Gaffney's catchy shuffle "A Bridge Too Far," the Robbie Fulks-esque Dan Janisch's "If You Say That You Love Me," Thousand Dollar Wedding's loping, banjo-driven lament "Real Sad" and multi-instrumentalist Chris Sprague's take on the Everlys, "Right or Wrong."

While by no means essential, this one has its moments and no doubt also serves as a reasonable indicator of the current state of LA alternative country.