Judge Mitchell Hattaway is pretty sure this disc has nothing to do with Frank Miller or a plot by Dr. Evil.
An unforgettable tribute…an all-star lineup.
In 2004, Polly Parsons organized a pair of concerts to celebrate the music of her father, the late Gram Parsons, who, in his brief career, had broken new ground by combining rock, soul, gospel, and country into a stew he liked to call "cosmic American music." Polly was able to corral a selection of musicians whose music is indebted to her father's work, along with some folks who had known and played with him before his death in 1973 at the age of 26. The shows took place on July 9 at the Santa Barbara Bowl, and on July 10 at the Universal Amphitheater in Los Angeles, with the proceeds from the concerts (as well as from this DVD) going to benefit the MusiCares Musicians Assistance Program, an organization designed to help musicians struggling with alcohol and/or drug addiction (Gram Parsons's death was brought on by a fatal mix of tequila and heroin). Return to Sin City: A Tribute to Gram Parsons culls together several of the performances and presents them on one pretty sweet DVD.
Here's the track listing:
• "Six Days on The Road" (Sin City All Stars)
Okay, we might as well get this out of the way: I love this disc. I'm a fan of Gram, and I'm a fan of many of the people featured in this tribute. The entire show is great, but I'd like to highlight a few of my favorite moments, so here goes:
• Jay Farrar: The Uncle Tupelo co-founder and Son Volt leader turns in a couple of spot-on numbers, and they're both excellent. In fact, his rendition of "Drug Store Truck Drivin' Man" is arguably better than the original (I think Farrar's voice is better suited to the song than Roger McGuinn's).
• Raul Malo: Oh, man. The Mavericks member's "Hot Burrito No. 1" is so smooth I was expecting the women in the audience to start throwing their underwear at him.
• John Doe: The man from X takes a stab at "Hot Burrito No. 2" and knocks it out of the park.
• Steve Earle: Gotta love him. "Luxury Liner" is simply great, and I don't think anybody else on the planet is as qualified as Earle to take a shot at "My Uncle," and he comes damn close to making it his own.
• Dwight Yoakam: De-wight! "Wheels" is a killer, and I was really hoping they'd let him take a shot at "Sin City," and my wish was fulfilled. Absolutely amazing, Dwight's broken guitar string and all.
• Norah Jones: I can't call myself a fan, but I'll be damned if her rendition of "She" didn't make me want to reconsider.
• Norah Jones and Keith Richards: Keif! Their duet on "Love Hurts" is super sweet; Norah stumbles a couple of times in the middle of the song, looking like she's about to choke up (at first I thought maybe she was just forgetting the words, as she's too young to have grown up with the Nazareth version, and then I thought maybe Jack Sparrow's dad was just creeping her out, but I soon realized she was just overwhelmed).
• Everybody coming together for two songs: "Ooh Las Vegas" is a nice closer, but the best moment of the night has to be "Wild Horses," a song Gram recorded a year before the Stones released their version. This version of the song is quite possibly the best I've ever heard (with the possible exception of the Sunday's cover back in 1992). Absolutely amazing.
Sounds like a pretty good package, huh? I just wish they had thrown everything in and made it a disc set, but for me too much couldn't be enough. I do have one small problem with this release, though, and that concerns the audio commentary, which features Polly Parsons and co-executive producer Shilah Morrow. They spend most of the running time talking about how they organized the shows, which is cool, but they have a tendency to repeat themselves (especially Morrow). I think I would have preferred a documentary over the commentary, especially considering that this would have allowed the concerts' participants to chime in.
Okay, let's discuss the audio/video quality of the disc, which is pretty sweet, too. The anamorphic transfer is excellent; this is one of the best concert discs I've seen. The only flaw I could find was some color bleed during the number featuring the choir from the House of Blues (they're all dressed in red, they're all huddled together, and they're lit from behind by red lights, so I imagine this confluence of color was a bit of a nightmare for the telecinist), but that's just a minor blip. You get three audio options, and you can't go wrong regardless of which you pick, as the music sounds great in all three. There's not a lot of surround action in either of the 5.1 tracks, but there's very good channel separation along the front half of the soundstage (especially in the DTS track).
You get some great music played by some great musicians, all in honor of another great musician, and all for a worthy cause. You can't go wrong with Return to Sin City.
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• Commentary by Polly Parsons and Shilah Morrow
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