Various Poor Little Knitter On The Road

Tribute albums are usually reserved for artists, songwriters, or very occasionally for some era-defining icon like Sergeant Pepper. Now we have a tribute LP to a one-off side project. A sure sign that this tribute madness is really getting out of hand? Not when you’re talking a tribute to a record as seminal as the Knitters’ Poor Little Critter On The Road. The Knitters were a side project of X’s John Doe, Exene, DJ Bonebrake, and the Blasters’ Dave Alvin, along with Johnny Ray Bartel. When the roots of alt.country are explored it is usually (deserving) acts like Gram Parsons, Uncle Tupelo, Jason and the Scorchers, and sometimes even bands like Rank And File that get the lion’s share of the credit. Lost in the process are the Knitters, and now the folks at Bloodshot are aiming to make amends by getting a bunch of the usual Bloodshotters together, both past and present, to recreate the LP. Kelly Hogan & the Rock*A*Teens offer up the mutated honky tonk of “Someone Like You,” and Freakwater’s Catherine Irwin joins the Sadies on the traditional “Walkin’ Cane.” With the least countrified track on the disc, Whiskeytown sign in with a dreamy, dense and slightly poppy version of Merle Haggard’s “Silver Wings.” The Blacks version of “The New World” sounds more like X than John Doe’s cut with Old 97s. Both tracks are highlights of the set, with the latter becoming a quiet tale of desperation. The set ends with a previously unreleased track by the real Knitters. “Why Don’t We Try Anymore” has a swagger and confidence that’s missing in some of the other tracks. Like all tribute LPs this is definitely a mixed bag, but still comes down squarely in the black column when it’s all toted up. (Bloodshot)