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Various Artists

In Twistable, Turnable Man: A Musical Tribute to the Songs of Shel Silverstein – 2010 (Sugar Hill)

Reviewed by Robert Loy

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"Renaissance man" is a term you don't hear much anymore. Maybe because Shel Silverstein, who passed away in 1999, was the last of that august breed. Although known primarily as a children's author ("A Light in the Attic" "Where the Sidewalk Ends") Silverstein was also a successful poet, playwright, songwriter (his songs were recorded by everybody from raunch-rockers Dr. Hook to living legend Loretta Lynn), singer, screenwriter and cartoonist - how many children's authors can say they had a cartoon in every issue of Playboy from 1957 to 1974?

As befits a man of Silverstein's versatility, an eclectic lineup of musicians fete him on this 15-track tribute CD, everybody from Lucinda Williams (covering The Ballad of Lucy Jordan originally made famous by Marianne Faithful) to up-and-coming indie rockers Dr. Dog (taking some of the brogue but none of the brio out The Unicorn a 1967 hit for the Irish Rovers). Longtime country fans will probably get a charge out of Daddy, What If which was a 1973 hit for Bobby Bare and 5-year-old Bobby Bare, Jr. and comes full circle here with Junior now doing the daddy role and duetting with his young daughter Isabella. They may also be surprised to learn that The Winner (by Kris Kristofferson) has another verse that wasn't on the 1976 radio hit.

Fourteen of Uncle Shelby's tunes are covered here, and everyone a standout - and Nanci Griffith turns his most famous children's book ("The Giving Tree")into an unforgettable song too. And still there are enough that were left off - One's on the Way, Put Another Log on the Fire, The Mermaid, Never Bite a Married Woman on the Thigh - to name just a few, that there is ample material for a volume two.