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Concept albums, be they soundtrack or tribute, anthology or mixed bag, are a rewarding way to listen to an artist outside their chosen personalities, context as frame. The success of "O Brother, Where Art Thou" shows it's an appealingly public concept, and beneficial to artists (who get exposure outside their usual fan base) as well as the topics chosen (which may be seen from new and sometimes wild-card perspectives).

Take America's Country (Columbia) , for instance, a timely look at patriotism from a genre that is usually first in flag-unfurling. Wearing their heartland on their sleeve, 15 great country artists including Johnny Cash (dueting with Marty Robbins, no less), Lee Greenwood, Willie Nelson and Billy Ray Cyrus, Charlie Daniels, Patty Loveless, Ricky Skaggs, and Merle Haggard, tell Mom to bring out the homemade apple pie, celebrating family values - Joe Diffie puts it best with "Home" - and America's symbolic reach, the soaring "The Eagle" performed by Waylon Jennings. Our ideals. Long may they wave (and not be misused. This message was brought to you by the First Amendment).

Rock and Roll perennials The Kinks have a songcraft that lends well to the artistic cover. Ray Davies' blend of music hall theatrics, English vignette and character sketch, bemused sensibility, and raw energy, has enough variety for anyone to find their way into Kinksville. One of the first rock songs I ever played was "You Really Got Me," a deceptively simple tune with three key changes that the group anted-up on "All Day Of The Night," which I recently had the pleasure of performing with Ray on the stage of Carnegie Hall, a tribute-album moment that had me bent knee to the rock and roll gods in gratitude. / Issue 23 - September 2018
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