Music reviews

The Last Stand – Alabama
Randy Owen and the guys from Alabama first hit the charts way back in 1977. The foursome from Ft. Payne, Ala., went on to sell more than 73 million records and chart 42 No 1. singles. In 2002, the band announced they would be ending their historic run. Alabama’s “Farewell Tour” then traveled the nation, bringing great songs and memories to throngs of supporters in 2003-’04.

The Last Stand is a 12-track collection of fan favorites recorded on that good-bye tour. “Here We Are,” “If You’re Gonna Play in Texas,” “Give Me One More Shot” and “Jukebox in My Mind” are among the high-powered selections. The CD closes with a new live recording of “The Fans,” a track that’s been a favorite at concerts for the past two decades. It’s always a good thing to hear Randy and the boys doing their thing. A

The Hits – Faith Hill
“I consider it a privilege to be able to release a hits record,” says Faith Hill. “As a young girl, I found my passion in Star, Miss., and I followed my heart to Nashville so that I could sing. And not a day goes by that I don’t realize just how fortunate I am to be able to do what I love the most.”

Since her 1993 debut, the 40-year-old superstar has sold more than 30 million records, won five Grammys and three CMA awards, and racked up 11 No. 1 singles. This new CD includes numerous No. 1 hits, including “Wild One,” “Breathe,” “The Way You Love Me” and “It Matters to Me” – and four previously unreleased tracks, including the latest single, “Red Umbrella.” The singer tells us, “Some consider the release of a ‘greatest hits’ as the end of a chapter. I’d prefer to call it an interlude, because I’d never want to close the chapter on what’s gotten me to the party.” A-

The Chain – Deana Carter
Multi-platinum recording artist Deana Carter burst into the music scene in 1996 with the blockbuster “Strawberry Wine.” Since that time, the Goodlettsville, Tenn., native’s music has been up and down the charts, and her life has seen its ups and downs, too. Now a mother, Carter, 42, is delivering a new kind of baby with this, her fifth studio album.

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Each of the 12 songs on the self-produced The Chain has a special importance to the singer, who personally chose material that had a great impact on her early life. She took the same care in recruiting collaborators for the project, assembling a group of musicians who influenced her as an artist – none more greatly than her father, legendary session player Fred Carter Jr., who performs throughout the album. “Ever since I knew that music was going to be my life’s path, I’ve wanted to pay tribute to my dad and to the artists who were so good to me and my family,” she says. Songs of note include “Old Man” and a duet with Kris Kristofferson on his classic, “Help Me Make It Through the Night.” B+

American Man: Greatest Hits Vol. II – Trace Adkins
The late Buck Owens once advised Trace Adkins to rely heavily on his deeper-than-the-sea baritone voice if he ever expected to be a star. “Buck Owens told me, ‘Son, you need to hit that bass note that you sing in every song because that’s really all that you got going for you,'” Adkins recalls with a smile.

These days, the long, tall singer from Sarepta, La., is taking Owens’ advice and cranking out lots of hit records – and penning books, too. (Adkins’ A Personal Stand: Observations and Opinions From a Freethinking Roughneck hit bookstores in November 2007.) The 45-year-old Grand Ole Opry member’s new music release contains 13 of his most memorable tracks, including “Honky Tonk Badonkadonk,” “Hot Mama” and the emotional “Arlington.” The new single “I Got My Game On” is also packaged here on this baker’s dozen of great listening. Keep hitting that bass note, Trace. A