Jesse Harris secured his songwriting legacy by winning a Grammy for penning Norah Jones' hit "Don't Know Why," but as a performer, Harris' unassuming approach continues to strike some listeners as overly vague. That same problem afflicts about half the tracks on The Hottest State: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack, a Harris-song showcase that often slips into his familiar "pleasantly nondescript" zone. Only when the acts make the songs their own—as Willie Nelson does with the winsome "Always Seem To Get Things Wrong," Bright Eyes with the grand "Big Old House," and The Black Keys with the eruptive "If You Ever Slip"—do they make the case for Harris as a superior craftsman, in need of the proper tools.

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