It seems the "unplugged" trend of the '90s was only a surprise to either fans of Bon Jovi
or those who hadn't been paying attention for 35 years, for acoustic music had been a hallmark of rock and its cousins for quite some time by that point. This second volume in the Best of Mountain Stage Live
series focuses on both country and alternative artists. The Mountain Stage has been a forum for eclectic acoustic music for years, and while these CD distillations are sometimes erratic, they always contain a few gems. In this case, the alternative artists actually outshine the country ones, beating them at their own mournful game. Perhaps the highlight of the disc is Robyn Hitchcock
's version of "The Arms of Love," which is twice as aching as the over-produced version that eventually showed up on Respect
. The track also features some spectacular violin work by Deni Bonet
. Billy Bragg
's touching tribute to his father, "Tank Park Salute," is also among the best this set offers, as is John Wesley Harding
's Elvis Costello
rendition of "You're No Good." The most well-known song on this collection is obviously R.E.M.
's "Losing My Religion." This take is a hauntingly languid variation on the album version that saturated the airwaves earlier in 1991. Bonet
once again steals the show on this number, adding a bittersweet flavor with her violin. John Prine
and June Tabor
give good efforts as well, especially Tabor
, whose piano piece sounds like solo Sandy Denny
. However, Delbert McClinton
's "Shaky Ground" is really out of place, a blues stinker with too many horns that really undermines the minimalistic purpose of the format. Due to the formal connections between Hitchcock
, and R.E.M.
, fans of that trio are probably those best served by this volume.