Various Artists

American Fogies, Vol. 1

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If you're looking to investigate the sheer variety of musical traditions in America, this is definitely the place to start, in large part because many of the artists involved aren't big names dipping their toe into different waters. These are people -- many of whom have barely been heard nationally -- for whom their particular musical style is life, like the Aux Cajunals, whose take on the blues "Baby Please Don't Go" is an accordion-driven stomp. Lee Sexton's "Rye Whiskey" is just banjo and voice in the best Roscoe Holcomb lineage (the two are actually related), while Wayne Henderson offers some Doc Watson-style picking on "Chow Time." But the album becomes far more satisfying when it casts its net wider to encompass more of the ethnic groups who've settled in America, such as the Pastatones' "Chitarra Romana" -- Italian music from New Mexico -- or "Pia Kuba," which comes from the Texas Polish community. And it would hardly be representative of the United States without a healthy sprinkling of Mexican music, such as "La Repetida" from Sabas Espinosa and Freddie Porras, which explores the burgeoning Tejano genre. But while the majority of these performers might not have big reputations (there are a few exceptions, like klezmer man Andy Statman and blues figures Corey Harris and Alvin "Youngblood" Hart), don't be fooled into thinking the playing is anything less than superb. Producer and compiler Ray Alden proves to have a shrewd ear for talent and the ability to coax something wonderful out of those he records, be it the Kentucky fiddle of Clyde Davenport or the unique Native American/Cajun hybrid of A-Machetah/Bayou Eclectico. From all corners of the U.S., and most especially its heartland, this is definitely the sound of America -- and these people are far from fogies.

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