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SOUND CHECK.

BRAD PAISLEY: ``Time Well Wasted'' (Arista Nashville) - Three and one half stars

Whether or not you appreciate commercial contemporary country, one fact is indisputable - Paisley knows his way around a Telecaster like few other headliners in the field. His highly enjoyable fourth disc is full of the sort of thrilling runs and snake-bitten chicken-pickin' that fans of Vince Gill, Albert Lee and the great James Burton (who appears here on the album-closer ``Cornography'') will delight in.

The seamless set opens with a punch - a heartfelt ``The World,'' the good-humored hit single ``Alcohol'' and ``Waitin' On a Woman'' - each displaying Paisley's fine vocal delivery along with the string-pulling. Elsewhere, cameos from Dolly Parton on ``When I Get Where I'm Going,'' and Paisley's labelmate Alan Jackson on ``Out in the Parkin' Lot,'' are two other reasons why ``Time Well Wasted'' will soon be taking up residence on various charts.

Paisley is so much fun as a soloist, you sometimes just can't wait for the dazzling fretwork to kick in. Out Tuesday.

- Fred Shuster

THE STOOGES: ``The Stooges'' (Rhino/Elektra)'' - Four stars

``Fun House'' (Rhino/Elektra)'' - Four stars

Detroit's most influential group gets the royal treatment with remastered versions of the Iggy Pop-fronted band's first two albums. The self-titled 1969 debut, one of the pillars of punk, brought such enduring songs as ``1969,'' ``No Fun'' and ``I Wanna Be Your Dog,'' while 1970's ``Fun House'' moved into more adventurous sonic territory. Both new editions sound cleaner and crisper than the original CD versions, but the addition of previously unreleased mediocrities (including single mixes and alternate vocal versions) don't add to the story. However you get them, though, the first two Stooges albums are essential.

- Ryan Ritchie

NICKEL CREEK: ``Why Should the Fire Die?'' (Sugar Hill) - Three and one half stars

This youthful, Southern California three-piece string band had great success with its first two albums - and with that came a kind of smug virtuosity, as if they were saying ``look how effortlessly we can jump between jazz, bluegrass and modern classical motifs.'' But on their third time out, mandolinist Chris Thile, fiddler Sara Watkins and her guitarist brother Sean integrate those genres, as well as snappy pop and some blistering rock, into a well-balanced, holistic/acoustic sound. Their songwriting has grown deeper and more searching, too, though Thile's stud posturing is still evident on tracks like the rueful ``Can't Complain.'' All in all, ``Fire'' percolates with genius, energy and, for the first time, maturity.

- Bob Strauss

JOHNNY CASH ``The Legend'' (Columbia Legacy) - Four stars

JUNE CARTER CASH ``Keep On the Sunny Side - Her Life in Music'' (Columbia Legacy) - Four stars

Johnny Cash compilations aren't hard to find; nevertheless the new four-CD ``Legend'' box becomes the starting point for newcomers looking to explore the music The Man in Black made during his lengthy career on Columbia Records. The late-period ``American Recordings'' albums aren't represented, but there is his haunting duet with his daughter, Roseanne, ``September When It Comes,'' as well as seven previously unreleased songs, including a beautifully spare ``Down in the Valley,'' and a stirring duet with wife June, ``It Takes One to Know Me.''

Speaking of June, she finally gets her due with the two-disc ``Sunny Side,'' with 40 songs that display her big heart and big voice, a voice that could be sassy, sexy and just plain heartbreaking. The 40 songs include duets with Johnny, numbers with the Carter family (including her own rendition of ``Ring of Fire,'' a song she co-wrote) and her sterling solo recordings from the 1970s. Indispensable.

- Glenn Whipp

TRISTAN PRETTYMAN: ``Twentythree'' (Virgin) - Two and one half stars

Like a girl-Jack Johnson, this SoCal surfer turns her bonfire anthems into a promising debut album of sunset- drenched acoustic pop ballads. Sparse instrumentation and the singer's near-spoken vocal style serve many of these simple and heartfelt songs, from the laid-back bluesy flow of ``Love, Love, Love'' to the breezy ``Shy That Way,'' co-written by Jason Mraz, with whom Prettyman also duets. But the real standout here is ``Simple as It Should Be,'' a folk song in which she pairs up with the Grammy-winning songwriter Jesse Harris, best known for his work with Norah Jones. Out Tuesday.

- Sandra Barrera

CAPTION(S):

8 photos

Photo:

(1) no caption (Brad Paisley)

Michael Caulfield/WireImage.com

(2 -- 8) no caption (CD covers)
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Aug 12, 2005
Words:720
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