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Culture Notable CDs

Notable CDs

Top Albums

The Top 5 best-selling country CDs for the week ending Sept. 14

1 week on chart

STYLE Unplugged country with bluegrass roots.


WORLDVIEW That love is a many-faceted, tortured, and tangled thing: fragile yet tough, mundane yet mysterious; as worth fighting for as one's country, as worth making peace for as the dream-filled repose of one's infant son.

OVERALL QUALITY Refreshing. Avoids the overproduction, prefabrication, and obvious cover-song choices usually associated with best-selling country.

2. Unleashed

6 weeks on chart

STYLE Immaculately produced commercial country.

OBJECTIONABLE MATERIAL "Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue" (profanity under duress), "Who's Your Daddy?" (implicit immorality)

WORLDVIEW Patriotism ("Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue") and vigilante justice ("Beer for My Horses") will eventually save the day; meanwhile, there's nothing like getting covered with kisses by your baby ("It's All Good").

OVERALL QUALITY Impressively diverse, stylistically speaking, for its style.

3. My Town

1 week on chart

STYLE Country-rock with Southern-rock roots.

OBJECTIONABLE MATERIAL "Bad for Good" (casual profanity, boozing as liberation), "Hell Yeah" (casual profanity), "Free Fall" (casual profanity)

WORLDVIEW Sentimental, from "My Town"'s family values to everything else's rugged individualism and women (whom rugged individuals can neither live with nor without).

OVERALL QUALITY Well written, well played, well sung-and rowdy: "Good Clean Fun" could pass for Lynyrd Skynyrd.

4. Something Worth Leaving Behind

2 weeks on chart

STYLE Lush contemporary country.


WORLDVIEW By sequencing the two Julie Miller gospel-rockers consecutively, Ms. Womack implies that they're worth leaving behind; hence: "Come, refugees, left homesick for / some place you've never known / here princes, paupers, criminals, and saints are all the same / no more or less than God's beloved child aboard this train" ("Orphan Train").

OVERALL QUALITY Exceptionally well produced, played, and sung.

No shoes, No Shirt, No Problems

19 weeks on chart

STYLE Country-pop


WORLDVIEW The worldview of the music: sentimental; the worldview of the foldout ad for MasterCard's GM Card ("a proud sponsor of the Kenny Chesney No Shoes, No Shirt, No Problems tour"): cynical.

OVERALL QUALITY Tuneful, tight, and "protected against unauthorized copying ... designed to play only on standard audio CD players ... will not play on computers, some DVD players, or other devices."

In the spotlight

Given the zaniness they flaunted on Wide Open Spaces and Fly, the Dixie Chicks must have been tempted to use the occasion of Home (Open Wide/ Monument/Columbia), their new album, to go whole hog and become the Lucille Balls of hickdom. Instead, they unplug, concentrate on their singing, castigate Nashville for having Hank Jr. but not Hank, and weave an unlikely set of cover songs and originals into one of the least sentimental portrayals of "home" ever to top the country charts. Their version of Fleetwood Mac's "Landslide" will probably generate the most comment, but it's Patty Griffin's "Truth No. 2" that reveals the extent of their new seriousness. "I looked at my reflection in the window walking past," sings Natalie Maines, "and I saw a stranger / Just so scared all the time it makes me one more reason / Why the world's dangerous." A subtler and more succinctly probing comment on the post-9/11 situation we're not likely to get.