Various Artists

The Rough Guide to Americana

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An alphabet soup of country-tinged musical idioms are ladled up on The Rough Guide to Americana. According to the CD's editor, British journalist Sylvie Simmons, this compilation includes examples of alternative country, country-rock, roots rock, paisley underground, lo-fi country, insurgent country, and no depression styles. Though this barrage of categories may sound confusing, all the tunes on Americana are supposedly influenced by rootsy country music and position themselves as a hearty alternative to watered-down country-pop. The CD kicks off with "Through the Trees," a melancholy tune by husband-wife duo the Handsome Family. With their backbeat nailed down by a drum machine, this outfit strums folksy progressions while reciting a cinematic narrative about suicide, weightlessness, and love. Another compelling cut on Americana is Split Lip Rayfield s "Kiss of Death." It's a tight little ditty that melds the intensity of Slayer with the acoustic twang of a bluegrass revival. Though the CD's editor touts the compilation as an example of grittier country music, many of Americana's tracks lack depth. Like the city slicker who is terrified of getting their SUV dirty, some of the CD's less convincing tracks are timid and obsessively polished. Likewise, a number of Americana staples -- such as Freakwater, Alejandro Escovedo, Gram Parsons, and Wilco -- are conspicuously missing from the lineup. Regardless, the 20-song compilation of country-politan and singer/songwriterly music stands as a needed introduction to the growing Americana scene.

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