Rhapsody Streamnotes: May 8, 2010

Another month, another batch. Got to the last three titles after Christgau's May Consumer Guide appeared -- want to give Quasi one more spin before deciding on it. Bought a copy of the missing Coathangers record, but haven't got around to playing it yet. Also bought the new Hold Steady, which on first blush sounds much like their others.

Thought I'd add some pictures to liven things up -- pick hits, if you like, but I wouldn't be so sure of that. Looked for Dan le Sac v Scroobius Pip but couldn't find it, so picked Nash over Apples in Stereo, possibly because I like the cover better.

Usual caveats apply: These are short notes/reviews based on streaming records from Rhapsody. They are snap judgments based on one or two plays, accumulated since my last post along these lines, back on April 9. Past reviews and more information are available here.

Coathangers (2007, Rob's House): Atlanta group, basically punk with keybs, mostly or all female, two albums. Christgau likes the second, Scramble (2009), better, but this eponymous debut is the only one available, so I figured what the fuck. First slow one is eight songs in, "Buckethead Betty," with a live audience. Next is "Don't Touch My Shit!" -- more rant than melody. Sloppy, but that's the best thing about them. B+(***)

Texas Tornados: ˇEsta Bueno! (2010, Bismeaux): Tex-Mex supergroup, disbanded in 1999 with the death of the almost irreplaceable Doug Sahm; all the more so since the even more unique Freddy Fender died in 2006. However, no big surprise that Augie Meyers and Flaco Jiminez had nothing better going on with their careers, hence this quasi-reunion. Sahm's shoes are filled by son Shawn, who inherited more than a little of his dad's voice. And Fender returns from the grave with five vocal tracks. No one here is trying to do anything new; they're hard-pressed enough to come up with something old, which isn't such a bad idea. B+(*)

Easton Corbin (2010, Mercury Nashville): Debut album, tries hard to establish his bona fides by going countrier than thou -- one song is "A Little More Country Than That," followed by "This Far From Memphis" about how bad he's slid so far from home. Cover shows him sittin' on the porch, pickin', dog by his side, only the wicker chairs lookin' too easy. B+(**)

John Hiatt: The Open Road (2009 [2010], New West): Back in 1975 Christgau sent me Hiatt's first two albums to see if I could run with them. I did get to the point where I regarded them as surrealist wonders, but didn't write a review until the big Terminal Zone survey. Later I caught Hiatt playing solo in an Indianapolis bar, memorable as a fortuitous accident but also as a lesson in how one can make up for lack of a band. Wit helps, plus a voice that he's tortured into one-of-a-kind territory. Twenty albums later, he's a solid journeyman, enough of a pro that the best songs here are built on borrowed blues riffs, and all the more remarkable for that. B+(**)

Norah Jones: The Fall (2009, Blue Note): Fourth album. A big star for a jazz label, but not jazzy enough that I got serviced -- she's cornered some kind of MOR vocal niche that nobody knew existed before Come Away With Me swept the charts. An attractive album, although I still don't get much out of it. B+(*)

Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings: I Learned the Hard Way (2010, Daptone): Retro soul, a pretty good formula, which after four albums is just that. B+(*)

V.V. Brown: Travelling Like the Light (2009 [2010], Capitol): British soul singer, owns most of her writing credits, has a retro spin that doesn't fee like retro: more like a cross or merger between Little Esther and Martha and the Vandellas, although she more likely grew up on Madonna. Fully half of the songs I instantly love. Slowing it down isn't her strong suit. A- [later: A]

Polar Bear: Peepers (2010, Leaf Label): Quintet, British (I guess), led by drummer Seb Rochford (Scottish, I'm told); AMG has group formed in 1999, with five albums since 2005. Group has two tenor saxes up front, electronics and guitar by Leafcutter John, and bass, of course. I wouldn't call this fusion, although it does tend to stick with the beat. Slow songs make good use of the sax(es); fast ones too, but differently. Had a lot of trouble playing this, and one song called "Scream" didn't come through at all. Not sure whether that's a plus or a minus. B+(**)

Kate Nash: My Best Friend Is You (2010, Geffen): British pop sensation (in Britain at least), similar (in that regard at least) to Lily Allen. Not as interesting, but rocks harder, and in "Mansion Song" is far ruder. First album was borderline A-list; this one is harder to figure, but has more upside potential. A-

Merle Haggard: I Am What I Am (2010, Vanguard): A slight but satisfying album, his 76th in his 72 years; probably ranks somewhere in the middle ranks in songwriting terms -- "We're Falling in Love Again" is much like other good songs he's done in the past, but "Bad Actor" and the title song (something about a pig being just a ham) aren't that sharp. On the other hand, his voice keeps growing on you, and the spare country arrangements are flawless. B+(***)

Merle Haggard: Chicago Wind (2005, Capitol): Missed this record a few years back; now two back, behind the new one and The Bluegrass Sessions, more recent than 2003's Like Never Before. Two new political songs are as jingoistic as ever but are basically right on: "Where's All the Freedom" calls for freedom here, and "America First" calls to get the hell out of Iraq. Everything else tends toward soft and shapeless, relatively speaking. B+(**)

Shelby Lynne: Tears, Lies and Alibis (2010, Everso): First song suggests a rockish album, but that breaks down with a couple of slow ones. That all turns around midway on "Family Tree" with its tense guitar and biting lyric ("this apple done fall off the family tree"). From that point on the songs take over. [was: A-] B+(***)

The Apples in Stereo: Travellers in Space and Time (2008-10 [2010], Yep Roc): Brilliant pop feel, big gestures, bold synths. I hear the comparisons to ELO, but which reminds me that Roy Wood's take on the Beatles was in this direction. Still, a much bigger band, and retro only if you feel old. A-

The Apples in Stereo: Tone Soul Evolution (1997, SpinArt): Delving into their back catalogue for one I missed, this was their second album, striking most for the purity and constency of their Revolver-era Beatles sound -- that shimmering aura around the guitars that may have originally come from George Harrison's sitar but just seems to be a sound signature here. Also the purity and consistency of the songwriting. A-

MGMT: Congratulations (2010, Columbia): Electro-pop duo, second album. Their first, Oracular Spectacular, was one of the highest rated metafile records of 2008 that I didn't get around to hearing -- finished 8th on my list (behind Bon Iver at 6th). This is pretty blah for the first half, the main problem being anonymous vocals layered until utterly indistinct. Not sure what the "Brian Eno" tribute means to prove, but one following cut ("Lady Dada's Nightmare"?) is spare and interesting. B-

MGMT: Oracular Spectacular (2007 [2008], Columbia): Surprise hit first album, holds together better probably because they keep a consistent vocal tone -- most likely the principals -- and stick to the few things they know best. This doesn't impress strongly as "electro-pop" or "synth-dance" which suggest other exemplars with more pop and more wit -- New Order, Pet Shop Boys, Cabaret Voltaire, even Eurythmics -- but they're smart enough to slink by, just not what I'd call spectacular. B+(*)

Willie Nelson: Country Music (2010, Rounder): New label, must have been killer shit they were smoking at the marketing meeting given that all they came up with was T-Bone Burnett producing, a bunch of real old songs to cover -- the one Nelson original is "Man With the Blues," which he's done dozens of times since the early '60s -- and, well, what was that title again? At least as formulae go this one is impossible to screw up. Still, Nelson sings softly and the mostly acoustic band is featherweight. B+(*)

These New Puritans: Hidden (2010, Domino): British group, second album, like the drum sound quite a bit, sometimes the synth layering, don't mind the talkie vocals, but find the choral stuff a bit too high church. B

Gotan Project: Tango 3.0 (2010, XL): French group, originally more of a techno-meets-tango concept, but aside from a little dub this seems squarely rooted in tango, perhaps because they're discovering ever more angles and layers to the basic step. B+(**)

Erykah Badu: New Amerykah, Pt. 2: Return of the Ankh (2010, Universal/Motown): Given her past record, this should be a smart, savvy set, but the soft funk flows so interminably that two plays slip past while barely registering. Could still be worth pursuing, but cheaper thrills abound. B+(*)

Corroncho (2009 [2010], Expression): Rhapsody attributes this to Roxy Music guitarist Phil Manzanera, although Lucho Brieva is a crucial collaborator, bringing the Colombian slang of the title and the jumpy Cumbia funk, rap, and ambient dub, and interesting guests abound. Could complain that Dylan's "Tu Juventud" is as old as ever. B+(**)

Glee: The Music, Vol. 1 (2009, Columbia): I've only seen one episode and suspect that the hokey story settings and slick dance moves matter more than the music -- but the episode I saw featured Madonna songs, so the music held up much better than, well, the run of the mill here. "Gold Digger" suggests they should do more hip-hop; everything else argues for fewer torchy ballads. Also, the harmonies that spell team effort on the show smother the songs on their own. B-

Glee: The Music, Vol. 2 (2009, Columbia): More, and more scattered, with no hip-hop but a few pieces that hold up to their energetic overkill -- the opening "Proud Mary," the mash-up of "Don't Stand So Close to Me/Young Girl," a towering "Lean on Me." Glad I don't know the story line behind "(You're) Having My Baby," or for that matter "Imagine." I can certainly guess "My Life Would Suck Without You." B

Glee: The Music, the Power of Madonna (2010, Columbia): A 27:46 EP, corresponding to the one episode that I actually watched, which was rather fun, with the music welcome relief from the story line, especially the one leading into "Like a Virgin." B+(*)

Dan le Sac vs Scroobius Pip: The Logic of Chance (2010, Sunday Best): Brit rap, clever wordplay over a shmear of grime. A couple of things especially caught my ear: working a bit of "Lush Life" into the opener, "Sick Tonight"; and the theme of "Get Better," which sounds like a philosophy to live by. There's more, too. A-

MC Esoteric: Saving Seamus Ryan (2009, Fly Casual): Boston rapper, usually works with DJ 7L as 7L & Esoteric. Concept album, about a dog, a girlfriend/future fiancé, a diamond ring that gets stolen in a mugging where this Seamus Ryan character gets shot, and other stuff I didn't really follow. I'm slightly skeptical here, having found that the storylines behind concept albums rarely add much to the songs or much satisfaction once you get them all. On the other hand, maybe the dog wins out. B+(***)

Surfer Blood: Astro Coast (2010, Kanine): Florida group, the name tempts critics to associate them with surf music but I don't hear it. Partly the guitar grind and vocals are stuck in mono. The shark on the cover is also pretty ugly. The songs have some promise, but it's hard to tell at this point. One thing that didn't help was an annoying Rhapsody experience, where three or four songs repeatedly disconnected. B+(**)


Records I looked for but didn't find on Rhapsody:

  • Sweet Apple: Love & Desperation (Teepee)

Recycled Goods

The following were written during this period for Recycled Goods:

Dave Alvin: Live From Austin TX (1999 [2007], New West): Founded the Blasters with brother Phil Alvin; split after three albums, pursuing a solo career which peaked, artistically at least, with 1995's King of California, which this live set leans heavily, and therefore redundantly, upon. B+(**)

Asleep at the Wheel: Live From Austin TX (1992 [2006], New West): Founded in 1969 as an old timey outfit in West Virginia, Ray Benson moved his band to Oakland then to Austin in 1974, where his interest in western swing led to some contacts -- guests here include Leon Rausch, Johnny Gimble, Eldon Shamblin, and Herb Remington; they lean toward Bob Wills tunes, but mix in things the band used to do, like a hot "Hot Rod Lincoln" and a less than classic "Route 66." B+(*)

Asleep at the Wheel: 20 Greatest Hits (1972-2003 [2003], Capitol): A fine backup band with a good record collection, Ray Benson's group never had any real hits of their own, but they could play other peoples' songs and occasionally slip an original in as moldy as their covers, and they've networked like crazy to find vocal alternatives to Benson's serviceable baritone; a good but inessential sampler. B+(**)

David Byrne: Live From Austin TX (2001 [2007], New West): Byrne's solo career has lingered longer but nowhere near as brightly, so mostly Talking Heads songs -- "Nothing But Flowers," "And She Was," "Once in a Lifetime," "This Must Be the Place," "Life During Wartime" -- supplemented with some of the worldbeats he's since picked up; I don't listen much to old faves -- Talking Heads albums topped my year-end three times from 1978-85 -- so these struck a personal chord, even though I reckon they're at least more canonical on Stop Making Sense. B+(***)

Neko Case: Live From Austin TX (2003 [2007], New West): Flirted with alt-country early on, recording an album with the Sadies, but had more success as with the New Pornographers, a group I've never been able to peg, and ultimately with an equally inscrutable solo career; her voice starts out annoying, eventually settles into something both forceful and bland, around songs that, except for the Dylan cover, elude me. B-

Johnny Cash: Live From Austin TX (1987 [2005], New West): Post-Columbia, voice still strong, starts with "Ring of Fire," "Folsom Prison Blues," "Sunday Mornin' Comin' Down," "I Walk the Line," before he gets optional, including tunes from Guy Clark and John Prine that I associate with their authors, and a weak duet with June Carter, leaving this a bit short. B+(**)

Guy Clark: Live From Austin TX (1989 [2007], New West): Texas singer-songwriter, seems like he put most of his best songs on his first album (1975's Old No. 1) -- still good for three songs here, along with lesser examples of his slyly observed and sometimes sentimental craft -- "Randall Knife" for his father and "Immigrant Eyes" for his grandfather. B+(**)

Fats Domino: The Fats Domino Jukebox: 20 Greatest Hits the Way You Originally Heard Them (1949-61 [2002], Capitol): The canonical Fats was collected on the 2-LP Legendary Masters in 1971, reissued on a single CD in 1990 as My Blue Heaven: The Best of Fats Domino as a tie-in to the otherwise unrelated (and otherwise forgetable) Steve Martin movie. This one, tied into the Crescent City Soul series shares fourteen songs, swapping six to no benefit but little loss if you're not already set up. Me, I miss "The Big Beat," "I'm Ready," and "My Blue Heaven," but I wonder how the canonical set missed "It's You I Love" other than that it's a bit quirky. Domino's 4-CD box runs out of steam way short of the finish line, but I'd bet one could program a 2-CD set that would satisfy everyone. A

Fats Domino: Live From Austin TX (1986 [2006], New West): Greatest hits live -- it's not like he needs to do anything more, especially for an hour set on country music turf; Lee Allen and Dave Bartholomew help out, leading a band that is loose as a goose and loaded with brass. B+(***)

Drive-By Truckers: The Fine Print: A Collection of Oddities and Rarities (2003-08 [2009], New West): A label-leaving kiss-off to the smartest Southern rock band ever after four straight good-to-great albums -- actually, the streak is longer going back to previous labels. Only twelve cuts -- four covers, two alternate takes, six others that didn't make the cut, mostly because they didn't rock hard enough even though most make up for it with wit, or at least feeling. The Tom T. Hall and the Warren Zevon show how far they can push their take on country and rock; Dylan's "Like a Rolling Stone" sounds great but unnecessary; "TVA" is an invaluable history lesson, lost on the anti-government folks who think the magic of the market lifted the rural South from the Dark Ages. A-

Steve Earle: Live From Austin TX (1986 [2004], New West): Made all the songs up save one from New Jersey "hillbilly" Bruce Springsteen; all the more remarkable given that he had only released one album, Guitar Town, but he barrels through it and well past it, encoring with "The Devil's Right Hand" -- who says guns don't kill people? -- and "Down the Road." A-

Steve Earle: Live From Austin TX: November 12, 2000 (2000 [2008], New West): Seems like a rather somber set with key songs from a strong series of albums through the late 1990s -- "Hard Core Troubadour" the most self-conscious -- until it came together with a loud and relentless "Unrepentant," followed by a comment on the election and a sad "Christmas in Washington" about how little it seemed to mean: panning Ralph Nader, pining for Joe Hill, misunderestimating George W. Bush. B+(***)

Kinky Friedman: Live From Austin TX (1975 [2007], New West): Famed Texas Jewboy, not much better than his jokes, which are as hit-and-miss as "Arsehole From El Paso" -- actually, sounds like "asshole," set to "Okie From Muskogee"; "Wile Man From Borneo" isn't, and "Homo Erectus" belongs in the Creation Museum, but he is right once: "They Ain't Making Jews Like Jesus Anymore." B

Eliza Gilkyson: Live From Austin TX (2001 [2007], New West): Singer-songwriter, grew up in Hollywood where her father wrote songs like Dean Martin's "Memories Are Made of This"; I never noticed her before, but she has over a dozen albums, and her ten originals here are smart and seductive over spare guitar; eleventh song is a cover from someone named Dylan. B+(***)

Guided by Voices: Live From Austin TX (2004 [2007], New West, 2CD): Robert Pollard's lo-fi postpunk band from Dayton, OH, been around since mid-1980s with a lot of quick and dirty albums; one irony is that a band which prides itself on 2-3 minute songs wound up with the series' only double -- overshoots barely at 88:56, evidently no one could figure out which of 30 songs might be done without -- the encore get better while the others fade in memory. B

Merle Haggard: Live From Austin TX '78 (1978 [2008], New West): Haggard's previously released 1985 show is one of the best in the series; this one is exceptionally laid back but a vocal marvel, bookended by two working man songs, with "Cherokee Maiden" and "San Antonio Rose" in the mix, his fightin' side nowhere to be found. B+(**)

John Hiatt: Live From Austin TX (1993 [2005], New West): Nashville veteran, originally from Indiana where he once killed an ant with his guitar, never considered country because he started out way too idiosyncratic a singer-songwriter then had a taste of success when he moved MOR; this tends to go with what brought the money. B+(*)

Waylon Jennings: Live From Austin TX (1989 [2006], New West): Never been tempted to consider Jennings as a major artist, but over thirty years he's begged, borrowed, and occasionally even written enough songs to fill a set, and he finally grew out of his penchant for sounding whiney; even so, he namechecks Hank, Willie, and Bob Wills, and with Jessi Colter marries Hank Thompson and Kitty Wells, as if all he ever wanted to be was David Allan Coe. B+(***)

Waylon Jennings: Live From Austin TX '84 (1984 [2008], New West): Earlier set, released later, seems more caught up in the outlaw thing, not that he always thinks it should be; actually a fairly mild set, especially for someone who sings "I've Always Been Crazy" and "I Ain't Living Long Like This." B+(**)

Eric Johnson: Live From Austin TX (1988 [2005], New West): Guitarist from Austin, sings a little bit but not well enough or often enough to detract from his instrumental rock rep; a lot of fancy fretwork, nothing that strikes me as jazz (despite an original title "East Wes"); two Hendrix songs, but a much more subdued tone. B+(*)

Robert Earl Keen: Live From Austin TX (2001 [2004], New West): Texas singer-songwriter, with more than a dozen albums since 1984, the sort of guy who might benefit from closer study but rarely inspires it; I hadn't bothered with him, but this does start to kick in toward the end. B+(*)

Klezmer Conservatory Band: Old World Beat (1992, Rounder): An old-timey Yiddish Soul Music group, founded in Boston in 1980 by Hankus Netsky, full of conservatory-trained musicians who play the music fine without quite getting under its skin, much less bringing it into the modern world; one clue here is how much better the fast ones are than the slow ones. B+(*)

Kris Kristofferson: Live From Austin TX (1981 [2006], New West): A fine actor, an occasionally inspired songwriter, a so-so singer; this ends a decade of working hard at his songcraft -- he didn't cut another album until '86 and then '90 -- so it's as representative and concentrated as he ever got, even if most songs (other than "Why Me" at the end) remind you of someone else. B

Jerry Lee Lewis: Live From Austin TX (1983 [2007], New West): As "You Win Again" proves, a fine ballad singer, but lots of people are; Killer's real bread and butter is pure excitement on the piano, which is never more clear than in his rock-the-house ending here: "What'd I Say," "Great Balls of Fire," and "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On." A-

Madonna: Like a Virgin (1984 [2001], Warner Brothers): Second album, her first number one, the title song still a concert staple even though she has plenty to choose from. It's hard to recall how abusive rock critics were when this came out. I recall hearing it while trolling in a Boston record store, reflecting that despite what I had read I found it pretty enjoyable -- especially "Over and Over," which was later repackaged on the critic-turning You Can Dance. It was at least an album one could doubt: Nile Rodgers was still producing real Chic albums; Cyndi Lauper's "Material Girl" was unnecessary and too easy; most importantly, she still had trouble turning around on a slow one, like the trite "Shoo-Bee-Doo" or "Love Don't Live Here Anymore." Reissue adds two remixes. B+(**)

Madonna: Celebration [Deluxe Edition] (1982-2009 [2009], Warner Brothers, 2CD): Plenty of later material to add a full disc to 1990's perfectly named The Immaculate Collection; I can't say they've picked the right ones, the new bait cuts are nothing special, and the non-chronological order tends to thin things out, but it's still an impressive show; a single-disc edition is also available, choicer, but still not immaculate. A-

John Mayall: Live From Austin TX (1993 [2007], New West): British blues band leader, would likely have remained as obscure as dozens others I can't recall but for his hiring Eric Clapton away from the Yardbirds in 1966; Clapton didn't stick long, and Mayall's been reshuffling talent ever since -- Chico Montoya is the hot hand here; about par for contemporary blues, strong on guitar, not much to sing about. B+(*)

Delbert McClinton: Live From Austin TX (1982 [2006], New West): Lubbock singer, doesn't write much, plays some harmonica, leans toward blues, especially when he can line up a horn section; developed a small following in his especially prolific 1970s, which sets up this rousing, horn-filled, but not all that interesting set. B

Tift Merritt: Home Is Loud (2005 [2009], Blue Rose): Limited edition live album after her second album, reissued a couple of albums later; plays her countryish songs loud, picking up some juice from the crowd. B+(**)

Cory Morrow: Live From Austin TX (2002 [2007], New West): Yet another Texas singer-songwriter, in one name-dropper claims he's "too young to have a point of view," but at least he has good taste in his Nashville models, and has a sound -- if he ever gets off the road and back into life he might have something to say. B+(**)

Buck Owens: Live From Austin TX (1988 [2007], New West): Short set, runs just eleven songs totalling 29:36, standard stuff if you're familiar with Owens' songbook -- "Act Naturally," "Together Again," "Love's Gonna Live Here," "Crying Time," "Tiger by the Tail," etc., with two Chuck Berry songs to rev up the end. B+(*)

The Polyphonic Spree: Live From Austin TX (2004 [2007], New West): Dallas-based self-described "choral symphonic rock" group, with 10-person choir, lots of instruments including violin, harp, French horn, and pedal steel; doesn't sound like a good idea, and isn't really, but sometimes they make something improbably magnificent. B

S.E. Rogie: Palm Wine Guitar Music: The 60s Sound (1960-69 [2002], Cooking Vinyl): Early tracks from Sierra Leone's best known musician, shows a calypso influence at a much diminished level of wordplay, sweetened by his shimmering guitar, an affect not far removed from pedal steel; his stabs at American folk and cowboy music are amusingly inept -- check the yodel on "I Wish I Was a Cowboy." B+(*)

Doug Sahm: San Antonio Rock: The Harlem Recordings 1957-1961 (1957-61 [2000], Norton): Sahm was born in 1941, so you can chuck his teenage recordings off as juvenilia, but you'll recognize the voice and note that his rock and roll was above par for the period's local bands; no keyboard, no Augie Meyers, fluffed up to 18 cuts with lots of alternate takes; reports say the booklet is loaded. B+(*)

Doug Sahm: Live From Austin TX (1975 [2007], New West): Post-Sir Douglas Quintet, although Sahm regrouped his fake Brit-invasion group for a memorable 1981 date, and he still feels compelled to close with "She's About a Mover" here; midway he croons "you can't live in Texas if you don't have a lot of soul" -- didn't add "or unless you're dumber than shit" because that case never occurred to him; great medley, lots of organ. A-

Susan Tedeschi: Live From Austin TX (2003 [2004], New West): The best hyped of a spate of white female blues slingers coming out of the 1990s never struck me as someone with something to say, but her cover of Stevie Wonder's "Love's in Need of Love Today" surprised me, the Dylan was hard to fault, the organ pushed "Voodoo Woman" over the top, I found myself enjoying the guitar on "Lost Lover Blues," and she ended with John Prine. B+(*)

Richard Thompson: Live From Austin TX (2001 [2005], New West): Ranks among English folksingers much like Jimi Hendrix to rock singer-songwriters -- an exceptional guitarist, an adequate vocalist, a songwriter of occasional note -- but he has seemed somewhat narrow ever since Linda Thompson left in the wake of their best album together -- memorialized here on the still powerful "Shoot Out the Lights." B+(***)

Tony Joe White: Polk Salad Annie: The Best of Tony Joe White (1969-73 [1994], Warner Archives): The "major label" years, reducing three Warners albums plus "Polk Salad Annie" from his three-album tenure at Monument into a tidy little package; at best an idiosyncratic swamp music storyteller, done few favors in the studio. B+(*)

Tony Joe White: Live From Austin TX (1980 [2006], New West): Louisiana swamp rat, part Cherokee, had a freak hit in "Polk Salad Annie" and wrote some songs you associate with others -- "Rainy Night in Georgia" and "Mama Don't Let Your Cowboys Grow Up to Be Babies" -- talks and sings over bare guitar riffs, including more than a few gators. B+(**)

Dwight Yoakam: Live From Austin TX (1988 [2005], New West): From Kentucky, but adopted Buck Owens and Bakersfield for his twist on neotrad; three albums in, all it took for his first best-of; strong singer, solid songs, plus Flaco Jiminez gives him a Tex-Mex welcome. B+(**)

Dwight Yoakam: Dwight Live (1994 [2009], Rhino Flashback): A deeper songbook, a little hotter, a bit more mature than the Austin City Limits set, but fundamentally redundant, as live hits albums tend to be, but strong enough to serve as a fine intro, and cheap at $6.97 list. B+(**)

Dwight Yoakam: The Very Best of Dwight Yoakam (1986-2000 [2004], Rhino/Reprise): Third best-of, not counting some miscellany, the first looking for a hit, the second closing out the millennium but limited to the 1990s; only one newer song here, but some from the 1980s round out his career, always solid and most likely plateaued. A-