Country Strong (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)

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True to its title—though perhaps unintentionally so—Country Strong is country in places and strong in others. Happily, some of those places overlap. While the album holds together better than many soundtracks, it’s divided between country songs and pop-country songs. Some are super, some so-so; some are sung by actors (Garrett Hedlund being the most convincing of the bunch) and some are delivered by serious country singers such as Trace Adkins, Patty Loveless and Ronnie Dunn, who wield the majority of Country Strong’s muscle.

Actress Gwyneth Paltrow deserves a tip of the Stetson for her performances, particularly on the tough-minded title cut (on which the more limber-throated Vince Gill ably assists). Still, neither she nor her mostly pop-leaning tracks can successfully spar with the likes of Lee Ann Womack, whose knockout track “Liars Lie” draws a clear line in the sand between authentic country and the diluted variety heard elsewhere on the album. Country Strong blurs that line at times, but never manages to erase it.

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