Album: Various Artists

Timeless: the songs of Hank Williams, Lost Highway
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The Independent Culture

As a rule, tribute albums should be approached with caution, most consisting of half-baked interpretations by obscure indie know-naughts of songs which you might once have loved, but probably never will again. Timeless gets it right on two important counts: first, the subject is unquestionably deserving of tribute, having written countless songs we now think of as standards; second, the cast-list of tributees here is about as top-drawer as it gets, with Dylan, Keef, Beck, Cash, Crow and Petty all involved, and none shirking their duty. Dylan kicks off proceedings with a jaunty, devil-may-care hillbilly swing through "I Can't Get You Off Of My Mind", a perfect companion-piece to the rootsy good-time music of his new album. Elsewhere, overdubbing himself as a full band, Tom Petty's version of "You're Gonna Change (Or I'm Gonna Leave)" sticks closely to Hank's original, as does Sheryl Crow's "Long Gone Lonesome Blues". Beck's reading of "Your Cheating Heart", by contrast, resembles the Everlys in reflective mood, while Keith Richards brings a raggedy-ass deep-soul burn to "You Win Again". It's an impressive collection overall, with only a couple of overcooked performances, from Lucinda Williams on "Cold, Cold Heart", and Ryan Adams, perhaps too closely paired with the subject matter of "Lovesick Blues". Most impressive of all, though, these 12 songs only scratch the surface of one of popular music's cornerstone catalogues.

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