Various Artists

Original Songwriter Demos, Vol. 1

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This set features ten solid Americana and contemporary country songs, most of which were real hits, performed informally here by those who composed them. Some of the highlights are Tony Arata's "The Dance," Matraca Berg's and Gary Harrison's "Strawberry Wine," the narcotically slow and dignified, "I Hope You Dance," and Jeff Hanna and friends' "Bless the Broken Road." That said, if the only track were Gretchen Peters' original demo for her "Independence Day" -- the song that made Martina McBride a star -- it would be worth the price of admission. Rather than the jingoistic misinterpretation Sean Hannity insists upon when he uses it on his radio program, Peters' meaning cannot be misunderstood. Through the eyes and experience of its protagonist, this song measures the myths and truths about freedom with a raw, devastating, emotional punch that is beyond the grasp of a national holiday to embrace. Consequently, for its deep revelation that is free from affect, it ranks over McBride's reading. Fans and students of American songwriting will find much to value in this neat collection.

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