Attitude and Movie Music

Steve Earle

Steve Earle’s Sidetracks is destined to be on a lot of year-end best-of lists. It collects several songs Earle wrote for recent movies: “Some Dreams” from The Rookie, “Me and the Eagle” from The Horse Whisperer, “Open Your Window” from Pay It Forward, and an alternate take of “Ellis Unit One” from Dead Man Walking. The disc features gospel greats, the Fairfield Four, on backing vocals.

The country-rocker, known for his mid-80s hits “Guitar Town” and “Copperhead Road,” delves into reggae on a version of the Slickers’ contribution, “Johnny Too Bad,” which Earle recorded with the V-Roys. Earle also covers Nirvana and Chambers Brothers’ tracks. If you like music with an attitude, check out this former prisoner’s latest album.
Grade: B

Pearl Snaps
Deryl Dodd

This boy is the biggest mystery on Music Row. After three albums and a few mild hits, why have country radio and country fans not embraced the Texas native with open arms? Beats me. Is he just too darn good? Deryl Dodd, a graduate of Baylor University, rose through the ranks on the Texas honky-tonk circuit, and he’s apparently happy about rediscovering his roots. Pearl Snaps is a pseudo D.D. greatest hits album, with his other mild hits “That’s How I Got To Memphis” and “A Bitter End” featured here as well.

In 1998, Dodd put his career on hold to battle viral encephalitis. With lots of time for recuperation and reflection, the handsome singer has returned with a quiet and powerful testament to contemporary, yet traditional, country music. There’s a cover of Lightfoot’s “Sundown,” and “She’ll Have You Back” is a song Dodd wrote that was originally recorded by Tim McGraw. Another great album by this sure-to-be star.
Grade: A-

Mindy McCready
Mindy McCready

Mindy McCready writes in her new album liner notes: “To my country radio family. It’s been almost seven years, four albums and millions of tears. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for letting me live my dream. I hope you’ll help me to do this for the rest of my life.” Get me a Kleenex.

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The controversial singer now has a new home on Capitol Records, but hold on Mindy, you won’t be here long. The Floridian comes to the label with a lot of question marks, and Capitol basically put this out with little fanfare. Most of the albums songs are throwbacks to the navel-ring wearing McCready that was engaged to actor Dean Cain a few years back. Is Mindy only a sexy act? Probably. The tunes on this album do little to improve her damaged reputation, although “Maybe, Maybe Not” is not too bad of a listen. Save your money, folks.
Grade: D

Best Of Crystal Gayle
Crystal Gayle

The pop-country diva may be a coal miner’s daughter (just like her big sister Loretta Lynn) but she would sound right at home in a New York cabaret. This collection is a batch of Gayle tunes from 1976-1986. At that time her voice was one of the most recognizable and popular in country music.

Gayle’s story begins with her 1977 pop blues masterpiece, “Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue,” which towered over the country and pop charts and remains her signature song. In fact, nine of the 19 tracks here topped the country charts, and seven were Top 30 Adult Contemporary hits. Gayle can effectively maneuver around an up-tempo song, and her loose, swinging vocal on 1984’s No. 1 hit “Turning Away” is one of her best on record. But she’s a juggernaut on deliberately paced ballads and languorous mid-tempo heartbreakers. Check out how she lays the hurt all over 1983’s deceptively upbeat “Baby, What About You.” Two duets arguably make this disc a must-have: “You And I” with late legend Eddie Rabbitt and “Another World” with Gary Morris. This is a fantastic collection of memorable hits.
Grade: A