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NASCAR CD Sets Pace for New Releases
Inside Traxx, a fast-paced compilation of contemporary country songs, takes the lead in this week's new releases. O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack star Ralph Stanley offers a new batch of old songs, Sawyer Brown celebrates 20 years with Can You Hear Me Now? and the Marie Sisters and Hayes Carll serve up their debut CDs.

From the opening sounds of revving engines, Inside Traxx (Warner Bros./Curb) never slows down. Jo Dee Messina's inspiring "Dare to Dream," the first single and video, sets the pace for the album. The Traxx listing also features previously released material from Tim McGraw, John Michael Montgomery, Travis Tritt, Hank Williams Jr. and Dwight Yoakam.

At age 75, bluegrass legend Stanley is on a roll. First, the Grand Ole Opry inducted him in 2000. Then his performance of "O Death" on the soundtrack to O Brother, Where Art Thou? brought national acclaim. He won his first two Grammys in 2002 and is now on the road with the Down From the Mountain tour. His self-titled album is his first for DMZ Records, a joint venture with Columbia Records founded by O Brother soundtrack producer T Bone Burnett and filmmakers Joel and Ethan Coen. Along with nine traditional pieces, Stanley contributes one original, "Great High Mountain," and a cover of Hank Williams' "Calling You."

Can You Hear Me Now? (Curb), an album of all-new material, marks the 20th anniversary of Sawyer Brown. (The title cut also appears on Inside Traxx.)
The five-man band got their start by winning $100,000 on TV's Star Search and landed their first No. 1, "Step by Step," in 1985. That same year, they won the CMA Horizon Award. Other No. 1 hits are "Some Girls Do" and "Thank God for You."

The Marie Sisters, the Texas act who dented the country charts with "Real Bad Mood," debut with a self-titled album on Republic/Universal. Think LeAnn Rimes harmonizing with herself. Hit songwriter Max T. Barnes ("Love, Me") produced most of the album; '80s pop star Richard Marx and Celine Dion studio whiz Guy Roche also pitched in.

Another Texan, Hayes Carll, has drawn comparisons to fellow Houston native Townes Van Zandt. The eloquent songwriter, who paid his dues in the non-tourist bars in Galveston and the Bolivar Peninsula, was nominated for best new artist and best folk artist by the Houston Press. His debut album, Flowers and Liquor, bows on Compadre Records.

Bluegrass label Pinecastle Records releases three albums this week. Nothin' Fancy's Once Upon a Road features a title track written especially for them by Tom T. Hall and his wife, Dixie. Banjo ace Kristin Scott Benson of Sally Jones and the Sidewinders debuts with the instrumental project Straight Paths. Lynn Morris Band mandolinist Jesse Brock bows with Kickin' Grass.
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