Carolyn Mark & Her Room-mates
A Tribute to the Soundtrack to Robert Altman’s Nashville
An obsession with Robert Altman’s 1975 satire about the ridiculousness of the country music industry led Canadian alt-country singer Carolyn Mark and her friend Dave Lang to get a group of semi-famous friends together to recreate the movie’s soundtrack. What looks like a clever concept on paper, though, turns out to be only spottily successful in reality. The album’s “cast members” alternately ham it up or take things seriously in their re-recordings of the soundtrack’s songs and dialogue snippets, originally created in the film by the likes of Ronee Blakely, Karen Black, and Keith Carradine.
In general, stronger songs and female singers fare best on the disc. Dottie Cormier (formerly of the Canadian bluegrass ensemble Heartbreak Hill) and her band tear up “Tape Deck in His Tractor” nicely. Neko Case turns up on her own on a nice version of “Rolling Stone” with Jon Rauhouse’s pedal steel leading the way. She also joins Mark as half of The Corn Sisters, providing off-kilter harmonies on “Oh These Troubled Times.” Mark does a nice job vocalizing on “My Idaho Home” and as part of a duet with Lang (who sounds oddly like Al Gore) on “One, I Love You.” On his own, Lang is helped out by a nifty guitar hook on “Keep A-Goin’.” But the album highlight is Kelly Hogan’s beautiful version of “Dues,” originally sung eccentrically in the film by Blakely, who received an Academy Award nomination for her performance as country star Barbara Jean. Hogan’s version includes pretty angelic backing vocals.
Of the other men on the disc, Carl Newman of New Pornographers sounds a bit like Gram Parsons on his gender-bending take on Karen Black’s “Memphis” even as he tries to hit the impossibly low notes of Black’s version. And Mark Room-mate Tolan McNeil sounds like Cat Stevens crossed with Glen Campbell on “I’m Easy” (sung by Carradine in the film). Dallas Good of The Sadies also turns up on “Bluebird.” But elsewhere, there’s a little too much jokey, off-key, intentionally bad singing of cheesy songs that make the record not stand up to repeated listening.
So watch the movie first and then listen to the CD once all the way through. Then, the next time you pull it out, it may be time to figure out how to program your CD player.
Mint Records: http://www.mintrecs.com