Various Artists 

The Bottle Let Me Down: Songs for Bumpy Wagon Rides (Bloodshot)

This spirited compilation of children's songs, by everyone from Alejandro Escovedo to Freakwater, was an inevitable step for Bloodshot Records. After all, kids' music has long been a province of roots music, and for over a decade, Bloodshot has prospered by puncturing the piety of the roots-music scene. So it makes sense that the label that added some verve to alt-country might seek to do the same to children's music, freeing the form from Barney's death grip.

But the artists here, like a liberating army, refrain from ransacking the genre along the way. The Waco Brothers flaunt their storied political incorrectness, letting the blood flow on "The Fox," but a glowing melody and graceful lyrics elevate the traditional jig's carnage into poetry. And while a few cuts, such as the Asylum Street Spankers' hyperactive version of "My Own Grandpa," take the mission to enliven the songs a bit too far, these exceptions don't upset the disc's balance of cheek and charm. And the accompanying booklet's drawings and paintings are even more winsome: They're rendered by the kids of musicians on the album, and none of them have yet hit "the big one-oh."

More by Franklin Soults


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