Tuskegee by Lionel Richie

Tribute albums can out and out suck. You’ve heard the ones I’m talking about. Artists, either unwilling or too awestruck, don’t want to put their own stamp on their hero’s songs. Thankfully, Tuskegee, the new album featuring duets with pop legend Lionel Richie on some of his biggest hits, is not one of those collections. Quite the opposite, in fact.

Lionel encouraged the country stars on the project to sing his songs the way they wanted to sing them. As a result, Tuskegee features gems such as “Easy,” on which Willie Nelson puts his own unmistakable twist, and  “Stuck on You,” which finds Darius Rucker handling Lionel’s original part and Lionel harmonizing around him.

The success of any project, covers or otherwise, depends on whether or not those participating rise to the occasion or phone their parts in. Blake Shelton’s duet with Lionel on “You Are” is clearly some of the Oklahoman’s best work; likewise, Billy Currington shows off a not-often-heard vocal power on “Just for You,” a European hit for Lionel.

With cuts featuring Tim McGraw, Shania Twain, Kenny Chesney, Jason Aldean, Kenny Rogers, Little Big Town, Jennifer Nettles, Rascal Flatts and even Jimmy Buffett (on the appropriately Caribbean-flavored “All Night Long”), there’s plenty here for country fans of pretty much any ilk.

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