Sin City [2005]

Genre: Crime, Thriller
Rating: R (Restricted)
Return to Sin City - A Tribute to Gram Parsons offers clear evidence that Parsons, who died at age 26 and whose output consisted primarily of just five recordings (one with the Byrds, two with the Flying Burrito Brothers, and two solo albums), commands a degree of respect and influence these days that's far greater than the modest success he enjoyed before his death in 1973. Recorded in Los Angeles, this 106-minute, 21-song concert features some big names (Keith Richards, Norah Jones) and slightly lesser lights (Lucinda Williams, Dwight Yoakam, Steve Earle, John Doe) performing tunes Parsons wrote and/or recorded before his career was cut short by drug and alcohol problems (executive produced by Parsons' daughter, Polly, the concert and DVD will help raise funds to battle substance abuse). And if the material's country-rock flavor (Parsons disdained that label, preferring to call it "cosmic American music") sounds a bit hackneyed nowadays, well, it's not his fault; after all, Parsons was only around to help invent the genre, not run it into the ground. On this night, it's left to the artists with unique voices and personae to lift the flavor of the proceedings from the merely pleasant to the truly inspiring, and that's precisely what Doe ("Hot Burrito No. 2"), Earle ("Luxury Liner"), Williams (a raw, somewhat ragged, and unabashedly vulnerable "Sleepless Nights"), Yoakam ("Sin City"), and Richards (who croaks his way through "Love Hurts," a duet with Jones, and "Hickory Wind") do. After that string of remarkable performances, closing the show by bringing everyone (including the great guitarist James Burton) onstage for "Wild Horses" and "Ooh Las Vegas" may be a tad anti-climactic, but Return to Sin City is still a fine way to remember a music legend. --Sam Graham

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