Various Artists

Root Awakening

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Root Awakening Review

by William Ruhlmann

The reason for this Red House Records label sampler is suggested in a note on the back of the CD booklet that outlines the independent Minnesota folk label's challenge in exposing its artists: "Unfortunately, this is music that is not often heard on commercial radio or TV." It is, however, heard on public and college radio and, as the sleeve note adds, "these artists are always out on the road bringing their vision to audiences around the country." As is often the case in a various-artists outing, it is the novelties that stand out, particularly Red House flagship artist Greg Brown's "Mose Allison Played Here," a caustic depiction of just what the experience of being out on the road bringing your vision to audiences around the country is really like. Chuck Brodsky's "Creepsville," another cautionary travelogue, is also savagely witty. Not funny at all, but striking, is Cliff Eberhardt's lament for an addicted friend, "Joey's Arms." Spider John Koerner opens and closes proceedings with his unique interpretations of Leadbelly's "Rock Island Line" (here called "The Human Race" with some significant lyrical changes) and Hoagy Carmichael's "Stardust." Root Awakening does the job a sampler should: it demonstrates that the label has some worthy artists audiences should seek out in concert or in full-length recordings of their own.

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