The Best of The ArtsCenter's American Roots Series 2004-2007 | Record Review | Indy Week

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The Best of The ArtsCenter's American Roots Series 2004-2007

Various Artists
(self-released)

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Yeah, the title of this compilation is a mouthful, but it's fitting as it also takes a lot of words to adequately describe what constitutes roots music. Or, in the case of this CD, a lot of songs—18 to be exact, from a cross section of the artists who've performed during the first four years of the Carrboro ArtsCenter's American Roots Series.

Together, those songs showcase the wide range of their American Roots. From Mavis Staples' soul-gospel and the Carolina Chocolate Drops' reclaimed string band jubilee to Peter Rowan's proto-Americana and Native American musician Pura Fe's chant-like blues, the styles are plenty. What's more, the roster mixes locals with nationals, veterans with relative rookies, and household names with those working the fringes.

Because 13 of the cuts are from previous releases by the artists, the collection's charms rely more on discovery than availability (and every home should be required to own a version of Richard Thompson's "1952 Vincent Black Lightning"). That said, the biggest payoffs come courtesy of the five live cuts recorded at the Roots Series and exclusive to this set. Chris Hillman reimagines "Turn! Turn! Turn!" as a mandolin-driven country rocker, and the Two Dollar Pistols pay tribute to true American original Chuck Berry with a Continental Club take on "Nadine." And when soul belter Bettye LaVette takes ownership of Lucinda Williams' "Joy," it's a jolt of pure, raw emotion—and the sound of American roots music at its best.

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