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Caitlin Rose: The Stand-In (ATO) 

The reason alt-country was able to mount an attack against mainstream country music in the 1990s had everything to do with the putrid sound that characterized Nashville at the time.

Alt-country has faded as a trend and Nashville may have righted a bit of the excess of that era, but there's still a void to fill for artists who combine the traditional and the contemporary, the country tradition and pop or rock.

At 25, Caitlin Rose fits the bill, sounding more like the country of Jenny Lewis, Lucinda Williams or Kathleen Edwards than the chart-topping starlets of today.

On her second album, Rose teams with producers Jordan Lehning and Skylar Wilson to add a sheen of traditional, standard pop music to her take on country music.

Highlights are opener "No One to Call"; "Only a Clown," one of two songs co-written with Gary Louris of the Jayhawks; the Felice Brothers cover "Dallas"; and the slow-build yearning of "When I'm Gone."

The album closer, "Old Numbers," is an arrangement that combines country and vintage jazz, a smooth and sophisticated sound that serves as a reminder that America's musical traditions never developed in isolation.

Rose may well be the right artist at the right time to reinvigorate country music, to remind people of its roots as well as the value of displaying songs in the catchy frames of pop.

More by Eric Swedlund

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