Various Artists

Songbirds: The Essential Album, Vol. 2

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Though the cover of Songbirds: The Essential Album, Vol. 2 claims to contain the "the purest songs from the finest female singer songwriters of our times," the reality is that much of the two-disc set revolves around the mid- to late-'90s chick-rock scene, when a rash of female musicians began to take over the airwaves, thanks much, in part, to the success of Sarah McLachlan's (who is represented here with "Building a Mystery") Lilith Fair. Joan Osborne, Aimee Mann, Ani DiFranco, and Shawn Colvin are all included (though the equally influential Jewel and Sheryl Crow are missing), as are older artists like Lucinda Williams, Kirsty MacColl, Nanci Griffith, Joan Armatrading, and Judie Tzuke. The music mostly falls in the pop/rock realm (Tish Hinojosa and Maysa Leak both veer from that slightly), and as Songbirds: The Essential Album, Vol. 2 was released by the British Manteca label, there are quite a few English or Scottish singers included who never quite made it in the U.S., but as a whole, and overlooking the exclusions -- Joni Mitchell, Tori Amos, Rickie Lee Jones, Liz Phair, to name the biggest ones -- the compilation does a pretty decent job of covering the realm of female singer/songwriters.

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