Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Badlands [Sub Pop, 2000]
It's fine in principle for alt-etc. heroes to cover Bruce Springsteen's 1982 living-room bummer Nebraska in its exact sequence at a higher level of production. But tribute albums always come with artistic happenstance attached. The woeful Son Volt's generically mournful "Open All Night" generates more punch than the party song Los Lobos try to make out of "Johnny 99." Second-rater Deana Carter's eerily electronic "State Trooper" signifies more sharply than the great Ani DiFranco's bitterly electronic "Used Cars." And only Johnny Cash truly nails anything--"I'm on Fire," one of three bonus tracks. Dar Williams's perfectly well-sung "Highway Patrolman," which Cash once did better than Springsteen himself, typifies what's wrongest about the idea. Williams may think it's nifty for a woman to sing a lyric explicitly designed for a man without adjusting it for gender. But it also reduces a song that was a holy mission for its creator into a mere work of art--a museum piece that deserve better. [Rolling Stone: 3]
Hank III, "Atlantic City"; Deana Carter, "State Trooper"; Johnny Cash, "I'm on Fire" Choice Cuts