Various I-10 Chronicles

Don't worry, even though this is a concept LP, it's a cool concept, not some fantastical rock opera. I-10 is the southernmost U.S. interstate highway that runs from the Pacific to the Atlantic, starting in L.A. and ending up in Jacksonville, while passing through some of the most musically fertile spots in the world. This volume takes us as far as Texas; a subsequent one will complete the journey. We get lots of road songs, starting with Bill and Bonnie Hearne's take on Guy Clark's classic "L.A. Freeway." Counting Crow Adam Duritz contributes a creditable version of Warren Zevon's "Carmelita." Joe Ely, with some help from Flaco Jimenez on accordion, offers up one of his patented story songs with "Saint Valentine." It sounds like a traditional ballad, but it's a brand spanking new Ely original. Willie Nelson, the closest thing to a saint or king in Texas, nails Fred Neil's "Everybody's Talking." Charlie Musselwhite's version of the Fleetwood Mac/Santana chestnut "Black Magic Woman" is jarringly out of place and is the set's only weak track. "El Guateque De Don Thomas," from Buena Vista Social Club's Eliades Ochoa, sung in Spanish, is vibrant and is the collection's freshest sounding song. Meredith Marshall does a fine job on John Hiatt and Ry Cooder's "Borderline." It may not be a major musical event, but it's still a more than enjoyable collection from start to end. (Virgin)