Within the discount, ugly-duckling packaging of The Real Music Box: 25 Years of Rounder Records lie nine CD swans worth several hundred times their weight in superficial music-industry gold records. Since 1970, Massachusetts-based Rounder has been a stalwart sanctuary of various musics at the root of what has recently been labeled "Americana." The retrospective is segmented into four thematic two-disc sets, each offering a staggering 30 to 50 tracks where legendary names rub shoulders with bright young Rounder talent. On Hills of Home (folk), Woody Guthrie and Lead Belly hang out with Rory Block and Alison Krauss; while Hand-Picked (bluegrass) highlights the likes of J.D. Crowe & The New South, Tony Trischka and Bela Fleck. Deep Blue (blues) captures a wide range of shades, from Professor Longhair and Champion Jack Dupree to Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown and the Holmes Brothers. Louisiana Spice stews up a gumbo of New Orleans R&B, cajun and zydeco, including Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Zachary Richard, and Boozoo Chavis. A final bonus disc captures 23 random Rounder samples, including psych-folk from The Holy Modal Rounders, Brave Combo's polka party, Jonathan Richman's childlike whimsy, and the Chicano rock of The Blazers. In some respects, this disc is the most satisfying of all just for its sheer breadth of scope. In all, a living, breathing, vibrant roots music encyclopedia.
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