There are those who would contend that there is something intrinsically strange about country music - that it taps into what Greil Marcus called "the old, weird America". But there's little of that backwoods eccentricity in this compilation. Conceived as a companion volume to the Strange Folk anthology, it leans heavily on recent alt.country Americana exponents, such as The Handsome Family, Calexico, Sparklehorse, Bright Eyes and Micah P Hinson, with just a smattering of roots provided by Johnny Cash, Porter Wagoner, Hank Williams and Willie Nelson, whose elegiac "Time of the Preacher" follows beautifully on from Smog's "Rock Bottom Riser". Isobel Campbell and Mark Lanegan's "Black Mountain" and Bonnie "Prince" Billy's "I See a Darkness" effectively imbue the new with antique spirit, while the firmest link between the ages comes via Loretta Lynn and Jack White's "Have Mercy". That gulf of cultures is fittingly crystallised in "Drugstore Truck-Driving Man" by Gram Parsons, who may be said to have started the whole alt.country ball rolling.
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