Various Artists 'The Best Of Times' Sleeveless

This album features the songs of Sara Hickman, a declared Official State Musician of Texas, who has used that platform to reach out to Texas-based musicians to produce this double CD to benefit and publicize the Theatre Action Project. TAP's aim is to bring arts into the classroom as funding for arts education had been cut in Texas. As with any such project featuring such a diverse range of acts, styles and musics not everyone is likely to like all the tracks here. But by the same token there's bound to be something here for everyone. There is folk, rock, blues, country, soul and everything in between. The album opens in style with the venerable Willie Nelson delivering Simply, his memorable voice and guitar over a string quartet backing. False Pretenses is sung by (Wagoneer) Monte Warden and Colin Boyd on a Everly's style duet.Tiny Movies is a synth sound based rendition by Gretchen Peters and Rob Halverson that may be different to some people perception of what she usually does. After The Fall is from Colin Gilmore and his band. Last Night Was A Big Rain is a solo performance from the Old 97s frontman. Eye Of The Storm by Elizabeth Wills shows off her strong vocals and there are a lot of striking female vocalists who are featured throughout the album. However all of these recordings also highlight the songwriting skills of Sara Hickman (and her occasional co-writers) and how they are open to such wide ranging interpretations and influences. It's In The Water by the Djembabes, as the name suggests has a world music feel which adds to the overall diversity on offer. Robert Earl Keen closes out the first disc with a bluesy Under The Sycamore Tree. Disc 2 will have different highlights for different listeners. For this particular listener it was Jimmy LaFave on Standing Ground, Comfort's Sigh from the ever distinctive Flatlanders. The guitar and vocal Joy from Ana Egge, a sultry No Name For Love by Darden Smith, Jess Klein's ghostly The One, Ruthie Foster's late night soul on Look At It This Way and Middle Of A Little Country Road from multi-instrumentalist Matt The Electrician. With 38 tracks it serves as a sampler of the diversity of current Texas-based music. It's largely music that falls outside of the more recognized country or blues directions that Texas is renowned for but it highlights the diversity of music in the State as well as a worthy cause and a equally talented songwriter.