Sharp Dressed Men: A Tribute To ZZ Top (RCA Records)
The three blues-rockers of ZZ Top have long been heroes in their home state of Texas -- and judging from this new tribute album, they're heroes in Nashville as well.
Sharp Dressed Men collects 15 new versions of ZZ classics performed by some of country's best -- all guys, true to the album title. The result is a meaty hour-plus of growling Texas stomp with a heaping helping of down-home Southern twang.
The album's best moments come when the stars put their own distinctive stamps on their chosen tunes. Brad Paisley turns the title cut into a real honky-tonker, Dwight Yoakam rebuilds "I'm Bad, I'm Nationwide" as a high-tech hillbilly groove number, Kenny Chesney spices up "Tush" with a horn section and Willie Nelson makes "She Loves My Automobile" thoroughly his own.
The very best tracks, however, find a couple of country masters diving head-first into the blues. Hank Williams Jr. rearranges the beloved ZZ Top medley of "Waitin' For The Bus" and "Jesus Just Left Chicago" into an eight-minute workout that'll singe your eyebrows. And later, Alan Jackson convincingly delivers straight-up blues on "Sure Got Cold After The Rain Fell" -- then shifts into hoedown mode midway through.
A few tracks here are overly respectful of the original versions, passing up an opportunity to really take these rockers to the country. But for the most part, Sharp Dressed Men is sharp indeed.
-- Chris Neal