Various Artists

Bluegrass U.S.A.

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One might expect from the mood of the United States in 2002 that Bluegrass U.S.A. had something to do with patriotism, but it doesn't -- at least not directly. Instead, the collection insinuates that bluegrass, like jazz, is an American art form, and that gathering a number of traditional favorites is by its very nature a patriotic act. A number of classic performers -- Jim & Jesse, Grandpa Jones, and the Osborne Brothers -- are on hand to offer nifty renditions of "Sleepy Eyed John," "Are You From Dixie?," and "Hillbilly Fever." The fun thing about a collection like this is having all of these songs in one place, as though one was listening to a 40-minute radio program of bluegrass favorites. There's fancy banjo and mandolin picking on Don Reno's "Charlotte Breakdown" and a nice bit of flatpicking on the Stonemans' version of "Under the Double Eagle." While there's much to recommend about Bluegrass U.S.A., the collection also has a couple of downsides. While a number of well-known tunes appear, the artist who made them popular doesn't necessarily perform them. "Ballad of Jed Clampett," for instance, is performed by Lester Flatt & Nashville Grass, not Flatt & Scruggs. For the bluegrass novice, there's also the problem that the liner notes fail to identify the source of each track. If a listener is unconcerned with these flaws, Bluegrass U.S.A. will prove the perfect disc to reacquaint oneself with a handful of traditional classics.

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