Various Artists, "Nashville Outlaws: A Tribute to Motley Crue" (Big Machine/Eleven Seven)
Country artists have long paid tribute to rock acts compatible with country music, from the Eagles to Buddy Holly to country-loving British acts the Beatles and Rolling Stones. But a heavy metal act like Motley Crue? For anyone listening to the arena-rock crunch in country music in recent years, country covering the Crue isn't a surprise at all.
What may be a surprise, though, is how ferociously some of country's more mild-mannered acts rise to the occasion. Rascal Flatts has never come close to rocking as hard as on its version of "Kickstart My Heart," which rightly opens the album and sets the bar for others to match.
Florida Georgia Line pales in comparison with the formulaic "If I Die Tomorrow." The same goes for Cassadee Pope, who went from rock to country after winning the third season of "The Voice," but lacks authority on "The Animal in Me," even with Cheap Trick's Robin Zander as a duet partner.
Highlights include Justin Moore's "Home Sweet Home," with its Lynyrd Skynyrd-guitar tone and soulful vocals, The Mavericks using a Latin rhythm on "Dr. Feelgood" to bring out its dramatic story line, Eli Young Band's sweetly melodic "Don't Go Away Mad" and Lee Ann Rimes' swinging "Smoking in the Boys Room."