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'Country Strong' soundtrack is traditional country

'Country Strong' soundtrack is traditional country

Various Artists, "Country Strong: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack" (RCA Nashville)

January 5th, 2011 by MICHAEL McCALL, For The Associated Press in News

As often happens with Hollywood films, the soundtrack to "Country Strong," starring Gwyneth Paltrow and Tim McGraw, leans harder on traditional country music than the Nashville music industry does.

Modern country music blurs genre lines with its rocking pop-country hybrid; "Country Strong" highlights an older-fashioned sound firmly belonging to country traditions with performances by Hank Williams Jr., Lee Ann Womack, a duet with Chris Young and Patty Loveless, and others.

Paltrow will get the most attention for her three new songs and a duet with McGraw. Playing an aging country star, she sings convincingly, although not distinctive enough to suggest she has an alternate career as a country diva.

Leighton Meester, co-star of TV's "Gossip Girl," plays a beauty queen seeking a career in country music, while Garrett Hedlund of "TRON: Legacy" plays an attractive, young singer-songwriter. Both present a song each: Meester's breathy voice is reminiscent of several contemporary female country stars; Hedlund's rough-cut acoustic song presents a stand-out moment.

Too many songs, such as Sara Evans' "A Little Bit Stronger," sound like throwaways left off previous albums. But Faith Hill's slow boil on "Give in to Me" shows the pretenders what makes a great country music performance.

CHECK OUT THIS TRACK: Ronnie Dunn's first solo offering since the end of Brooks & Dunn goes back to the barrooms with a superb version of "She's Actin' Single (I'm Drinking Doubles)," a Wayne Carson song that the late Gary Stewart turned into a honky-tonk classic.