Rhythm & Views

Various Artists

The artists featured on the soundtrack to the Bob Dylan quasi-biopic I'm Not There were presented with a double-edged sword. As scenes called for various actors to look and sound like Dylan, select musicians were forced to self-impale, suffering the wrath of his fans; conversely, those allowed the freedom to make a Dylan song their own equally risked disgracing the original. For a double-CD, the results are understandably mixed.

For the Dylan-goes-electric numbers, a supergroup dubbed The Million Dollar Bashers performed faithful renditions with iTunes A-listers such as Karen O ("Highway 61 Revisited"), Eddie Vedder (given the unenviable task of re-covering "All Along the Watchtower") and Cat Power. The Bashers and Stephen Malkmus' pairings are spot-on with irony in "Maggie's Farm" and in the piercing barbs of "Ballad of a Thin Man."

Tucson's Calexico backed up the more reserved artists, including Charlotte Gainsbourg ("Just Like a Woman"), My Morning Jacket's Jim James ("Goin' to Acapulco"), Iron and Wine ("Dark Eyes") and Willie Nelson, in one of the CD's standout tracks, "Senor (Tales of Yankee Power)." Showcasing Calexico's trademark desert-noir sound, while complementing Nelson's weathered pipes (crossing fingers for future collaborations!), "Senor" even features a haunting guest appearance by local flamenco baritone Salvador Duran.

Other tracks are less predictable: Sufjan Stevens turns "Ring Them Bells" into a pop opera; Los Lobos bring the Tex-Mex party to "Billy 1"; and The Hold Steady's "Can You Please Crawl Out Your Window?" sounds more like a Springsteen tribute.

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