Various artists, "The Music Inside: A Collaboration Dedicated to Waylon Jennings, Vol. 1" (Big Machine)

This tribute to the legendary country star does what the best tribute albums should do: remind you why the honoree is deserving of celebration. On song after finely crafted, incredibly tuneful, lyrically incisive song, this disc is a testament to the fact that the famous outlaw is just that.

Producer Witt Stewart judiciously picked the artists and songs for this first volume -- II and III are in the works -- and almost to a one they summon a spirit that helps the album add up to more than a various artists compilation.

Randy Houser seizes "I'm a Ramblin' Man'' and assuredly imbues it with a salty blues swagger. Jamey Johnson quietly, but persuasively, lays down the law on "This Time.'' "Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way'' could be a hit all over again thanks to a sly and jaunty take by a reunited Alabama. The salt-and-sugar combo of Kris Kristofferson and Patty Griffin illuminates "Rose in Paradise.''

Jennings' widow, Jessi Colter, makes sassy hay of "Good Hearted Woman'' with duet partner Sunny Sweeney. But it is Jennings' son Shooter, a gifted artist in his own right, who shines brightest with a bone-deep reading of "Belle of the Ball.''



Bob Geldof, "How to Compose Popular Songs That Will Sell" (Mercury)

The man behind Live Aid and Band Aid has again done something remarkable. He has made a halfway decent album.

It was looking likelier that Africa's poverty would end than that Geldof, now 59, would fulfill his early musical promise. He offers wry observations about life, love, fame and fortune. Many tracks are appealing -- and sound a lot like somebody else. That's no bad thing. "Blow Fish" has a hint of Tom Waits; "Here's to You" has a twist of Lennon. Still, nothing has the immediacy of "I Don't Like Mondays" or "This Is the World Calling."


Pete Anderson, "Even Things Up" (Little Dog)

While his supple guitar licks are familiar from the albums he produced for Dwight Yoakam, Anderson's own discs showcase his affinity for the blues. "Even Things Up" alternates rich, classic R&B instrumentals with catchy tracks ("Honky Tonk Girl," "That's How Trouble Starts," the title tune) that you can't resist singing along with after a few listens. Anderson shares more than a few qualities with Eric Clapton, the least of which is a somewhat reedy voice. That's hardly a problem, though, especially when he exhibits the exquisite taste to bring in vocalist Bekka Bramlett for a bonus track reprise of the soul-stirring "Still in Love."