There is a certain obsessively personal style of journalism that was pioneered by National Public Radio, a laser-like focus on oddballs and eccentrics around America. From listening to snippets of Morning Edition and All Things Considered you might wonder if all your neighbors are secretly compiling massive balls of string, replicating the Sistine chapel ceiling in their attic, or trying to carve a representation of the Roman Coliseum out of a walnut. Alternatively they might be the last devoted fans of some obscure performer, or the owners of the world's largest collection of plastic horses. If you delight in these oddball stories, you should invest in this CD, which collects the sometimes uplifting, sometimes pathetic, and sometimes just plain odd stories of people from all over the country. The man who obsessively writes the world's longest diary but who never reads it, the woman who keeps a vast bell museum that hardly anyone ever visits, the fellow who built a castle on a mountain in Colorado -- they share space here with the sad inmates of a grim Louisiana prison, the last aging members of the only Orthodox Jewish congregation in Mississippi, and other people who have some unique, outmoded, or unusual way of life. The style of these interviews is quintessence of NPR; interviewer and producer David Isay draws stories from his subjects, doing a lot more listening than talking, at least as presented on this disc. Each interview is paired with music that helps set the mood, sometimes played deep in the background, sometimes intercut for impact or set to give a meditative moment after a revelatory phrase. If you like NPR's style of interview you will cherish this CD, but most people will find it an archive to be listened to occasionally to remind them of some particularly insightful or inspirational moment.
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AllMusic Review by Richard Foss