Various Artists

The Soundtrack To Garth Cartwright's Book: More Miles Than Money

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Researched and written between 2006 and 2008, Garth Cartwright's book More Miles Than Money: Journeys Through American Music details his travels through the United States during that period. Cartwright sought out music in, as he writes in his introductory note to this compilation, "honky-tonks, juke joints and barrios," and this two-CD collection is a sort of audio companion piece to the book. It offers a very wide range of American roots music from the 1930s through the early 2000s, from rural blues and country to deep soul, electric blues, and mariachi. With artists like the Impressions, Hank Williams, Memphis Minnie, Jimmie Rodgers, Sonny Boy Williamson, Charles Wright, Lydia Mendoza, and Townes Van Zandt, it's hard not to achieve a respectable level of quality (though the decision to include Selena is open to question). At the same time, it covers so much ground that it's hard to imagine too many listeners heavily digging the program from beginning to end, and it must certainly help to be reading or have read the book, even though Cartwright and Tony Rounce supply thorough track-by-track annotation. Whatever your background, the chief attractions might be the lesser-noted cuts and performers, like the Goodees' little-known late-'60s white soul single "Didn't Know Love Was So Good," the young Jimmy Castor's 1966 single "Hey Leroy (Your Mama's Calling You)," or Sam the Sham & the Pharaohs' obscure swamp rock novelty "I Couldn't Spell !!*@!" These are the kinds of items, and from the era, in which the Ace label specializes. But there are plenty of more modern cuts from indie, blues, honky tonk, and roots rock artists, as well as a some Native American music, with Pipestone's "Crazy Love Life" powwow being one of the most interesting tracks. It's still a little more like hearing an eclectic radio program of roots music than a tight thematic compilation, so listeners are advised to have a very broad palette or be familiar with Cartwright's context to take full advantage of the contents.

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