A Little Bit of Everything

This is Americana (Americana Music Association)

Various Artists

By Sean Hoban

Gathering a hodgepodge of country-ish sounds, from cowpunk to hillbilly and from rockabilly to mountain bluegrass, the Americana Music Association presents a neat perspective on uniquely American roots music, showcasing songs of joy, loneliness, simplicity and country girls. Each of the 22 tracks (each one a different band) represents some of the best work in the above-mentioned genres. Seasoned legends such as Ralph Stanley - whose voice can be found on the O Brother Where Art Thou soundtrack - mix with the clearer, but still heartfelt songs of younger artists like Anne McCue.

Highlights include Mr. Slide Cleaves' "Wishbones," reminiscent of Uncle Tupelo when he sings "spin the bottle cap, throw the shot back/ cough and cry, lay down and die." Undoubtedly both Tift Merritt and Lucinda Williams will draw you in with their gravelly and yet plaintive appeal, while Alison Krauss and Union Station sing "I read between the lines of words you can't disguise/ love has gone away and put these tears in my eyes."

A sure favorite is "September When it Comes;" in this song, Roseanne Cash's wonderfully soft voice precedes her father's quiet but rough timber and the contrast leaves you shaking when they sing together "when the shadows lengthen and burn away the past."

If this hasn't sold you, you can listen to other tracks by Jay Farrar, the Jayhawks, Willie Nelson and Shelby Lynne. There's no excuse to NOT buy this album, as its $1.99 price tag makes it a steal (and it's a weekly hot seller at ear X-tacy). Congratulations to the AMA for selling 40,000 copies in 2004; hopefully this underground compilation will be snapped up by a few more people in 2005.