This Week's Playlist: Forever the Twang Shall Meet

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Brian Mansfield is nominally our country critic, but his musical interests, as clearly demonstrated in his playlists, range much wider. He certainly hasn't abandoned his love of country, though, and he returns to those rural routes this week.

Pick of the Week:

Muddy Water, Trace Adkins: Between his book, his spot on Celebrity Apprentice and a couple of film roles, Adkinsí profile has never been higher. Still, he doesnít always get the credit he deserves for being one of country musicís most distinctive voices (and one of the few true bass singers anywhere in pop music). This ballad, with its inspirational tone and rangy, gospel-inspired melody, could change that.

The playlist:

  • Donít Think I Donít Think About It, Darius Rucker: The Hootie & The Blowfish frontman becomes the first AfricanĖAmerican to have a top 20 country hit since Charley Pride and 1988ís Iím Gonna Love Her on the Radio.
  • Last Last Time, Bleu Edmondson: Brooding heartland country-rock by a Texan who ought to be better known than he is.
  • Chicken Fried, Zac Brown Band: Georgia-based band serves up a sing-along about lifeís little blessings, which include fried food and good friends.
  • Highway 40 Blues, Ricky Skaggs: Skaggs gives the bluegrass treatment to one of his biggest hits, which topped the country charts 25 years ago this month.
  • Moneyland, Del McCoury: Bluegrass great bemoans capitalism gone wild on the title track from his excellent new concept album.
  • Hell Ainít Half Full, Chris Knight: Like John Mellencampís Pink Houses. If theyíre cooking meth in the basement.
  • Murder in the City, Avett Brothers: Folk trio considers an uncertain future and family ties in this charmingly spare acoustic number.
  • Drive Like I Never Been Hurt, Ry Cooder: The great L.A. guitarist inhabits the persona of hot-rodding country singer Kash Buk circa 1962.
  • In the Summertime, The Wrights: What songwriter Roger Miller played for laughs, this Nashville husband-and-wife duo gives the somber treatment.
  • Sandy (Fourth of July), Bruce Springsteen: Springsteenís last performance of this song with the late E Street keyboardist Danny Federici is part of a iTunes-exclusive set of Magic tour highlights.