VARIOUS ARTISTS Kindred Spirits: A Tribute to The Music of Johnny Cash – Following the model of Timeless, last year’s Grammy-winning tribute to Hank Williams, producer Marty Stuart gathered an unparalleled cadre of A-list talent to interpret the original Man in Black’s tunes. Bob Dylan croaks ”Train of Love,” Bruce Springsteen croons ”Give My Love to Rose,” and Little Richard raves up ”Get Rhythm,” plus Steve Earle, Dwight Yoakam, Keb’ Mo’, and others contribute. ”It’s an opportunity to do something for a legend in music,” Little Richard says of the disc, an early Grammy contender for Best Country Album. ”I thank God for Johnny Cash.” (9/24)
STEVE EARLE Jerusalem – Yes, Jerusalem includes the already infamous empathy-for-the-devil track ”John Walker’s Blues,” which Earle growls from the perspective of convicted Taliban collaborator John Walker Lindh. But the record (which follows 2000’s Transcendental Blues) also finds Earle continuing to embrace a harder-rocking sound, even as he takes articulate jabs at the post-9/11 state of the nation (and, on the majestic title track, pleads for peace in the Middle East). ”I think it’s a really important album,” says Danny Goldberg, CEO of Artemis Records. ”It’s a political album.” That’s for sure. (9/24)
TIM MCGRAW Tim McGraw and the DanceHall Doctors – This marks the first time Nashville’s reigning male star has taken his longtime touring band into the studio — hence the title. ”I think it’s off the Richter scale, past what we’ve done before,” McGraw says of this ”earthier” effort. ”Instead of us taking the music and transferring it to the stage, we’ve taken the stage and transferred it to the music.” Speaking of taking it to the limit, Don Henley and Timothy B. Schmit add harmonies on ”Illegal.” (11/26)
SHANIA TWAIN UP! – NOV. 19
THE HOOK In praise of the tortoise: While Eminem was spouting off about his mother and Britney was writhing with serpents, the top-knotted and flat-tummied queen of country-pop crossover has been quietly shoring up her strength as a commercial colossus. Shania’s last album, 1997’s Come on Over, has sold 19 million copies in the U.S. alone, tying it for the sixth hugest album in American music history. Still, for the past two years or so, fans haven’t heard a peep; in 1999, Twain and her husband/producer, the reclusive power-riff warlock Robert John ”Mutt” Lange, moved to a chateau in Switzerland (yes, Switzerland), where they had a baby (son Eja) and tinkered away at their next twang-and-bang manifesto.
THE BRIDGE Tinkered slowly. Although UP! is officially tagged to launch in November, there have been rumors it could be delayed, possibly until next year. If so, blame both a management shake-up (in August, Twain parted ways with manager Jon Landau and hooked up with Q-Prime, Metallica’s firm) and a too-rich profusion of material: Twain says UP! might have 19 tracks, with different versions (glossy globo-country, bright Supertrampy arena-pop) engineered for different world markets. ”I know I have pop fans. I know I have country fans,” Twain says. ”I want them both to be entertained by what they’re hearing.”