Various Artists

American Roots Music [Highlights]

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The successes of the breakthrough soundtrack from the film O Brother Where Art Thou? and the in-depth PBS television series Ken Burns' Jazz seem to have combined in the 2001 production of Palm Pictures' four-part TV series American Roots Music. The series touches on the development of the distinctly American styles of traditional folk, country, blues, gospel, Western swing, bluegrass, Cajun, zydeco, Tejano, and Native American music. Corresponding with the television event, Palm has released a 19-song CD sampler offering prime examples of the styles covered during the show. American Roots Music has pulled together an impressive list of performers, this time including the Carter Family, Jimmie Rodgers, Bill Monroe, B.B. King, Hank Williams, Robert Johnson, Son House, Woody Guthrie, Leadbelly, Mahalia Jackson, Flaco Jimenez, and Bob Dylan. Viewers who have seen the series as a newfound education into these time-honored styles will be overjoyed at this sampler, featuring a perfect introduction to American roots music. As good as the sampler is, the four-CD box set soundtrack (with accompanying 48-page booklet) is almost too good to pass up. While some of the box set's tracks are a little rougher, they also go more in-depth, digging deeper into each of the styles covered on the highlights disc. Those who have seen and enjoyed the series would be advised to invest in the box set, while those curious about exploring these genres could comfortably start with the highlights disc. [Also available from Palm is a video collection containing the entire television series on DVD and VHS.]

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