Music Reviews
This Is Americana

This Is Americana

Various Artists

Ryko

It’s hard to argue with $1.98. That’s what the Americana Music Association is charging for this 21-track compilation of artists associated with the rather unwieldy genre. While it’s not necessarily the ideal selection of tracks to appeal to newcomers, and not necessarily of great interest to those who follow the genre closely, it does represent a pretty listenable collection of mostly recent tracks by a bunch of talented folks.

What’s clear early on is the diversity of the genre. You’ll find iconic old-timers like Willie Nelson, Ray Price and Kris Kristofferson, bluegrass vets (Ralph Stanley) and newcomers (King Wilkie) and kitschy cartoon country acts like BR5-49 and Junior Brown. Also in evidence are heroes from the alt-country faction. The Jayhawks offer “All the Right Reasons,” a pretty ballad from their back to the basics Rainy Day Music. Lucinda Williams is represented by “Ventura,” one of the atmospheric highlights from 2003’s World Without Tears. And Jay Farrar, whose recent solo work barely resembles his former bands Uncle Tupelo and Son Volt, is heard on a live version of “Doesn’t Have To Be This Way.”

Other notable contributors include Alison Krauss and Union Station. The modern bluegrass pros offer “Every Time You Say Goodbye,” driven by Ron Block’s banjo and tenor harmonies, Jerry Douglas’ peerless dobro and Krauss’s nimble fiddle work. Rosanne Cash appears with her late father on “September When It Comes,” the emotional highlight of her otherwise over-baked Rules of Travel. And Rosanne’s ex, Rodney Crowell, appears with his would-be supergroup The Notorious Cherry Bombs, which includes Vince Gill and Tony Brown.

You also get woefully under-appreciated male singer-songwriters (Slaid Cleaves, Jim Lauderdale), pretty female guitar slingers (Tift Merritt, Anne McCue) and impressive newcomers (Fairfax, the Joe Cocker-channeling Arthur Godfrey).

It may not be the definitive collection to which the title lays claim. Heck, it might not even be the best tracks from any of these artists. But it is really hard to argue with $1.98. Shame on me for even appearing to do so.

This Is Americana: http://www.thisisamericana.com


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