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Various Artists

Straight Outta Boone County – 1997 (Bloodshot)

Reviewed by Don Yates

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The latest compilation from the insurgent-country provocateurs at Bloodshot pays tribute to one of country music's all-time great radio shows. While not as famous as the Grand Ole Opry or Chicago's National Barn Dance, the Boone County Jamboree (later known as the Midwestern Hayride) from WLW in Cincinnati featured a wealth of countrytalent, a lot of it shared with Cincinnati's King Records.

The compilation pairs 19 alt-country acts (along with the legendary Hardrock Gunter) with songs associated with artists who played the radio show. While few of the alt-country artists aimed to capture the actual sound of the originals, many have successfully created their own idiosyncratic versions.

Whiskeytown provides the album's highlight, an introspective, folk-flavored interpretation of "Bottom Of The Glass." While Moon Mullican puts across this cautionary tale with steel-soaked honky tonk, Whiskeytown reaches the same grim truth of alcoholic self-knowledge with a radically different arrangement and instrumentation.

Other winners include Holler (featuring members of the late, great Starkweathers) and their ultra-twangy take on Merle Travis' "No Vacancy,"One Riot One Ranger's smooth harmonies on the Delmore Brothers' "Southern Moon," the Lucky Stars' high-spirited, retro romp through Zeb Turner's "No More Nothin'," Hazeldine's soulful female harmonies on the Delmores' "I'm Lonesome Without You," the Cowslingers' transformation of the Stanley Brothers' "If I Lose" into an infectious insurgent stomp, and the Waco Brothers' assured swagger on Travis' "Nine Pound Hammer."

Not everything works (Slobberbone's overly long and leaden version of"Dark As A Dungeon," the Grievous Angels' glib take on "In The Jailhouse Now," Scroat Belly's gimmicky tempo changes on "Why Don't You Haul Off and Love Me," the Handsome Family's droning version of "Barbara Allen"), but this compilation succeeds more often than not - both as a tribute to the country greats that congregated around a special radio show, and as yet another fine showcase for the alt-country scene.