Various Artists

This Is Americana

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The title of this 21-song budget sampler, This Is Americana, is the implied answer to an implied question, "What is Americana?" Well, listening to this CD probably won't clear the matter up, although you may walk away saying, OK, I know it when I hear it. Technically, Americana is anything having to do with the U.S., its people, and its history, which means inner-city rap rhymes are as much Americana as a scruffy No Depression band doing a Buck Owens cover. In this case of this sampler, however, Americana is a marketing strategy. Released by the Americana Music Association (with help from Ryko Records), its intent is to promote artists who don't fit neatly into any current country, pop, rock, or hip-hop radio play formats. That still leaves a lot of stuff unaccounted for, but for the purposes of this AMA outfit, Americana is a little bit country and a little bit rock and a little bit pop, and if you want to throw bluegrass and folk in there, that's fine, but please, no blues or jazz. One begins to have doubts that this Americanastuff is really a genre at all. All that said, there are some wonderful tracks here, including BR5-49's infectious opener, "That's What I Get," a perfectly charming take on the Carter Family's "Gold Watch & Chain" by the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band with Kris Kristofferson, Danny Barnes' irreverent and kinetic "Life in the Country," and Junior Brown's unique brand of hot rod honky tonk on "Little Red Rivi Airhead." Whether all of this really and truly adds up to a distinct genre or not could be endlessly debated, but with tracks like "September When It Comes," a duet by Rosanne Cash and Johnny Cash, such discussions are moot. Here listeners get a father and daughter singing a great song in an intimate setting like their lives depended on it.

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