Charlie Haden, Family & Friends Rambling Boy

Bassist/composer/bandleader Charlie Haden has long been a shining star on the contemporary jazz scene, so it may be a little surprising to find him leading an all-star cast of roots musicians and singers here. Turns out Haden grew up on traditional country music, with Maybelle Carter as a family friend. Now in his 70s, Haden returns to those old-time roots, with assists from his musically talented family, including wife Ruth Cameron, daughters Petra, Tanya and Rachel, and son Josh. The latter (from the band Spain) has a voice so sad it makes Leonard Cohen’s sound cheerful, and he shines on "Spiritual,” while the Haden triplets sound a little Be Good Tanyas-like on their vocal tunes. The all-star cast of friends includes Elvis Costello (on a fine version of "You Win Again”), Rosanne Cash (on the classic "Wildwood Flower”), Bruce Hornsby, Vince Gill (who delivers typically excellent guest vocals on the title track), Ricky Skaggs, Dan Tyminski, Jack Black (Charlie’s son-in-law, who sings on the traditional "Old Joe Clark”) and Pat Metheny, a frequent collaborator with Haden, featured on six cuts. It’s hard to go wrong with a cast like that, or with material written by the likes of A.P. Carter, Hank Williams, the Louvin Brothers and Bill Monroe, and the quality level is consistently high. Fittingly, the album closes with Charlie singing a hauntingly elegiac version of "Oh Shenandoah,” a song about his birthplace. This is a lovely record, highly recommended to anyone with the O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack in their collection. (Emarcy/Universal)