CD reviews

‘The Walking Dead Original Soundtrack Vol. 1’

When cable channel AMC introduced the original series “The Walking Dead” a couple of years ago, no one could have possibly predicted how popular it would be.

Sure, zombies were hot at the time, but the show, based on a popular graphic novel, will wrap up its third season this weekend and draws in millions of viewers each Sunday night.

To capitalize on the show’s rabid fan base, the producers have introduced everything from video games to smartphone apps that let you turn a photo of yourself into a zombie. So it was inevitable that a soundtrack would come out at some point.

“The Walking Dead Original Soundtrack Vol. 1” features eight songs used in or inspired by the series.

Strike one for the album is not including Bear McCreary’s haunting title theme music. Instead, we get a remix of that by UNKLE. The omission of the original theme is unforgivable, and one wonders if they are saving it for a future volume.

Otherwise, there are some quality tunes on here.

Jamie N Commons’ haunting blues guitar on “Lead Me Home” kicks things off, while Voxhaul Broadcast plods through “You Are the Wilderness.” Baby Bee rips it up on “Love Bug,” sounding like something Jack White might have produced. Of Monsters and Men’s “Sinking Man” is pretty, as is Emily Kinney’s “The Parting Glass,” a tune sung by two of the actresses in one episode.

While the soundtrack makes for a nice souvenir for mega-fans of the show, the short length and the lack of enough good material hurts this collection.

Key Tracks: “Lead Me Home,” “Love Bug,” “The Parting Glass”

It seems as if most modern country songs have become ridiculously cliche. They either take one semi-clever phrase and spend the rest of the song saying “See what I did there?” or else they simply follow a set of blueprints laid down since the dawn of country.

The result is almost maddening for someone looking for a little variety or originality in their music.

I know what you’re saying; why are you listening to country if you want that?

Thankfully, there are a handful of artists that still take the challenge of writing a country song to be something original. Take Kacey Musgraves, whose debut album “Same Trailer Different Park” breaks all kinds of rules.

With a voice that lies somewhere between Natalie Maines and Alison Krauss, Musgraves could probably have done just fine writing an album of songs that followed that aforementioned blueprint.

Instead, she colored way outside the lines, resulting in a modern country album that is anything but normal.

Among the better tracks are a realistic song about finding positivity (“Silver Linings”), an even more realistic song about small-town life (the ultra-catchy “Merry Go Round”), and a song about following your own path (“Follow Your Arrow”) that mentions a same-sex kiss.

This isn’t your mother’s country music.

Even without some potentially controversial lyrics, Musgraves has crafted a smart, funny and, at times, touching collection of songs that deal with real world issues.

This isn’t just one of my favorite country albums so far this year, it’s one of my favorite albums in any genre.

Key Tracks: “Merry Go Round,” “Step Off” “Follow Your Arrow”

When Levon Helm, the drummer and vocalist for the legendary rock outfit The Band, passed away last April, it left a huge hole in the hearts of many, musicians and fans alike.

At the Grammy Awards last month, Helm received an all-star tribute as musicians including Mumford & Sons, Elton John and Mavis Staples performed “The Weight” at the ceremony.

Another tribute to Helm was held in October in New Jersey.

“Love for Levon,” a 2-DVD set, encapsulates that monumental show, which featured performances from a dizzying array of stars.

Sure, tribute and relief concerts are a dime a dozen these days, but this show was organized by producer Don Was as a way to say goodbye to his friend in style, and the artists that showed up to play shows how far-reaching Helm’s music was.

It’s hard to say whether or not Warren Haynes performing “The Shape I’m In” is better than Mavis Staples’ incredible take on “Move Along Train.” Is Grace Potter’s earth-shattering rendition of “I Shall Be Released” better than Joe Walsh and Robert Randolph tearing up “Up on Cripple Creek?”

Honestly, all of the musicians involved are great, and are all backed by the surviving members of Helm’s band.

John Mayer, Eric Church, Ray LaMontagne, Lucinda Williams, John Prine, My Morning Jacket and Roger Waters are just a partial list of the amazing lineup.

Even if you aren’t a fan of Helm or The Band, you’ll likely find something amazing here.

Key Performance: Roger Waters and My Morning Jacket performing “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down”

By Devin Grant