This startling collection of newly recorded folk ballads—inspired by the indie movie Songcatcher, about an academic who in 1907 travels to Appalachia to steep herself in its musical traditions&

This startling collection of newly recorded folk ballads—inspired by the indie movie Songcatcher, about an academic who in 1907 travels to Appalachia to steep herself in its musical traditions—will evoke in the listener an explorer's thrill of discovery. Not only does Rosanne Cash make a strong return with the album opener, but more recent hitmakers Deana Carter and Sara Evans give effortlessly authentic takes on, respectively, the mysterious "Cuckoo Bird" and the guilt-ridden waltz "Mary of the Wild Moor." Emmylou Harris and Dolly Parton continue their fruitful revisionist paths—with Harris offering a sonically experimental version of the archetypal "Barbara Allen" and Parton writing a classic-sounding duet between a mother and daughter, her voice magically interweaving with that of Emmy Rossum, one of the film's stars. There are gripping, without-a-net performances by Patty Loveless and Maria McKee, and then there are the songs themselves: stunning, often macabre cautionary tales—especially "Wind and Rain," in which a fiddler crafts a violin from the bones of a drowned young woman—that have lost none of their power to haunt.—AB

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