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Various Artists

Tribute to Tradition – 1998 (Sony)

Reviewed by Joel Bernstein

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A bunch of today's country stars perform country classics, mostly in the same style as the original. Old-time fans will say that these versions aren't as good as the originals, many of which rank among the greatest country records ever made. Others may say there's little new being added to them here. Those complaints miss the point of the album, which is to introduce these great songs and sounds to a younger generation with little awareness of country's heritage. At that, the album succeeds so well that even cranky old-timers should enjoy themselves. Today's stars can sing pretty well too.

Dixie Chicks version of "Stand By Your Man" is one highlight, with Lloyd Maines playing pedal steel behind his daughter Natalie. Patty Loveless' take on Loretta Lynn's "Wine, Women and Song" is another gem. Alison Krauss' breathy vocal is perfectly matched to the beautiful "The Three Bells." The album finishes with a group sing of a new Marty Stuart song, a history-of-country-music called "Same Old Train."

There is some thought that mainstream country music is about to take a turn to more traditional sounds. This album is a fine step in that direction.