Music reviews

Greatest Hits II – Diamond Rio
Diamond Rio’s second greatest hits album arrives at a time when the veteran band is having a hard time at the top of the charts. Regardless, past hits such as “Beautiful Mess,” “I Believe,” “One More Day” and “Unbelievable” are included on this pleasant ride down Diamond Rio Road.

Two new tracks, “God Only Cries” and “Over You,” showcase lead singer Marty Roe’s dynamic vocals. Since arriving on the country charts 15 years ago with “Meet in the Middle” – which is included on this 13-song package – Marty and the boys have survived the boom and semi-bust of country music. Other songs of note are “Sweet Summer” and “That’s What I Get for Loving You.” A

Men & Mascara – Julie Roberts
With her deep, blues-soaked voice that poignantly captures the pain of the wronged and forgotten, Julie Roberts of Lancaster, S.C., garnered praise from around the globe with her 2004 self-titled debut. She was even chosen to sing the “Good to Go” theme song of Good Morning America. “We’ve played so many places, and I’ve been to so many places. But I haven’t really had time to sit back and reflect on all we’ve done,” Roberts says.

There’s no sophomore slump on this new release, Men & Mascara. The opener “Paint and Pillows” tells of a wife wronged by a cheating husband. Of the 12 tracks on this record, more than just the title song have memorable names and rhythms. “Too Damn Young,” “Chasin’ Whiskey” and “Girl Next Door” are great examples. B+

A Little More Livin’ – Trent Willmon
West Texan Trent Willmon’s second album features his writing talent on seven of the eleven songs, proving he’s more than just a singing hunk cowboy hat act. The singer has just survived a label shakeup at Columbia Records. Now he’s shaking up listeners with songs such as the Western Swing-filled “Sometimes I Miss Ya.”

The cowboy waltz, “Good Horses to Ride,” flows in melodic joy. The opener, “Good One Comin’ On,” written by David Lee Murphy, Gary Nicholson and Lee Roy Parnell, is a powerful jump-start to this dynamic CD. The debut single, “On Again Tonight,” is a beautiful, romantic song themed with reviving love. “Louisiana Rain,” “Surprise” and “Ropin’ Pen” are also worth a listen. B

The Complete Reprise Sessions (Box Set) – Gram Parsons
Although he died in 1973 at the tender age of 26, Southern music pioneer Gram Parsons had an incredible and quick ascent to the cutting-edge music of his era. As both a member of The Byrds and the Flying Burrito Brothers, he helped kick off the country-rock style that would bring Southern Rock and country outlaws to fame just after his death.

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The Florida-born and Georgia-bred Parsons launched a two-album solo career in the early ’70s, and this new Rhino box set is a refurbished collection of that work, plus a third alternate-version CD. Parsons discovered Emmylou Harris, and her vocals shine throughout this set. Parsons classics on this 44-track set include “Love Hurts,” “Hickory Wind,” “Streets of Baltimore” and “Return of the Grievous Angel.” B

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