Records are rated on a scale of one (awful) to four (classic) stars:
Various artists "Inside Llewyn Davis" Original soundtrack recording (Nonesuch)
Should he want it, a career in folk singing awaits Oscar Isaac, the actor who brings soulful depth to the sad-sack jerk title character of "Inside Llewyn Davis," the Coen brothers' riff on the Greenwich Village folk scene of the early 1960s.
As in the movie, Mr. Isaac more than holds his own with professional singing types such as Justin Timberlake, who plays a blandly likable folkie, and Broadway actor Stark Sands. Mr. Isaac brings conviction to trad tunes performed solo or accompanied by Marcus Mumford or the Punch Brothers.
When he's not on the mic, the soundtrack is a mishmash, with the too-cute novelty tune "Please Mr. Kennedy" not worthy of repeat listenings, and the odd cut by Bob Dylan and Dave Van Ronk, on whom Davis is partially based, adding to the jumble.
-- Dan DeLuca, The Philadelphia Inquirer
Various artists "Songs for Slim" Rockin' Here Tonight" (New West)
Songs for Slim" is a benefit compilation for Bob "Slim" Dunlap, lead guitarist of the Replacements in the post-Bob Stinson years. In February 2012, he suffered a stroke and is partially paralyzed.
Starting in January, a monthly series of benefit singles of covers of his songs (mainly from his two solo albums) were sold by auction to raise money for the full-time care he needs, and this set compiles 18 of those cuts plus a bonus CD of 10 additional tracks.
It features an A-list of Mr. Dunlap's peers, including the Replacements themselves, former Replacement Chris Mars, Tommy Keene, Soul Asylum, and X's John Doe. It also includes alt-country greats such as Steve Earle, Lucinda Williams (one of the few women on the set), Drive By Truckers' Patterson Hood, Wilco's Jeff Tweedy and Lucero.
Mr. Dunlap wrote great songs, too: Almost everything is straight-up rock 'n' roll, with roots in the Stones, Bo Diddley and, not surprisingly, the Replacements. This collection would be worthy even if it weren't for a worthwhile cause.
-- Steve Klinge, The Philadelphia Inquirer
Various artists "The music of "Nashville" Original soundtrack, Season 2, Vol. 1" (Big Machine)
Midway through its second season, "Nashville," the ABC melodrama about country stars and hopefuls, continues to get the music right. That's no surprise, because Buddy Miller, a great Americana artist himself, is in charge of it, after sharing duties in the first season with T Bone Burnett. And once again, he has top writers and players at his disposal to support the singing actors, who are no slouches themselves.
That means even the more radio-friendly material, such as the swaggering country rock of "What If I Was Willing," sung by Chris Carmack, and Hayden Panettiere's "Trouble Is," sound better than a lot of the stuff coming out of Music Row. Jonathan Jackson's ballad "How You Learn to Live Alone," is on the fey side, but everything else has plenty of rootsy character, from the sisterly harmonies of Lennon and Maisy on "A Life That's Good" to the bluesy bite of Connie Britton and Will Chase's "Ball and Chain" and Charles Esten's "Playin' Tricks." Those and more help make this the strongest "Nashville" collection yet.
-- Nick Cristiano, The Philadelphia Inquirer