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Various Artists

The Imus Ranch Record II – 2010 (New West)

Reviewed by Robert Wooldridge

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For more than a decade, controversial radio personality Don Imus has displayed his charitable side with the Imus Ranch, a facility in New Mexico where children with cancer can experience life on a functioning cattle ranch. As with the initial Imus Ranch Record in 2008, this collection benefits the ranch.

The most interesting of the tracks are the five produced specifically for this project and handpicked by Imus. The album kicks off with a pair of tunes in which the singers cross genres. Meat Loaf's classic rock ballad Two Out Of Three Ain't Bad is given the country crooner treatment by Jamey Johnson, while Dan Seals' country-pop hit Bop is transformed into soulful rhythm and blues by Sam Moore.

More predictable choices are Levon Helm's bluesy cover of Bob Dylan's It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Train To Cry and the spiritual You Can't Be A Beacon If Your Light Don't Shine by the Blind Boys Of Alabama. Perhaps the standout track is Hayes Carll's take on Roger Miller's King Of the Road.

The previously released material chosen by Imus is hit and miss. Amongst the stronger cuts are longtime Imus pal Kinky Friedman's Lover Please and Charlie Robison's My Home Town. Other standouts are Adam Duritz's cover of Warren Zevon's Carmelita and Delbert McClinton's Lone Star Blues.

The weakest link is the Cheap Trick cover of Don't Be Cruel, which Imus rationalizes in his liner notes "Cheap Trick is not better than Elvis...but I like them and this record. And they're not dead." Also included is the Newbeats' 1964 recording Bread And Butter, a pleasant tune but hardly the "greatest record ever made" as declared by Imus.

Though some may be repelled by Imus' shock jock reputation, this collection is largely entertaining and supports a good cause.