Various artists

Tell Us the Truth

This album is one of the better recent “protest” compilations. The highlight here is Steve Earle’s live version of “Christmas in Washington.” It’s a good one, with a special dedication to U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy. Recorded on the Tell Us the Truth tour in November 2003—not to be confused with the high-powered tour that featured Bruce Springsteen, among others—this is a mix of folk, blues, country-rock, hip-hop and spoken-word performances. The Nightwatchman’s “California’s Dark” has its special local significance, and Jill Sobule’s “War Correspondent” has a dark humor. Boots Riley’s “Five Million Ways to Kill a C.E.O.” is a tragicomedy, and Billy Bragg’s “The Price of Oil” gets right at the roots of current geopolitics. Also featured are Lester Chambers and R.E.M.’s Mike Mills.