This came out in 2001 – or at least that’s when I got it. Here’s what I said about it back then (with some minor editing):
Thanks to the runaway success of the award-winning soundtrack to O Brother, Where Art Thou?, there are more roots, folk, country, blues and Americana music collections around than you can shake a hickory switch at. Here’s the lowdown on one:
No. of CDs: Four.
No. of Songs: 68.
The Concept: Ken Burns’ Jazz meets Austin City Limits. The American Roots Music box set is the soundtrack to a PBS documentary series that traces the story of American musical styles — country, blues, gospel, folk, Cajun Zydeco, Tejano and Native American — with the aid of archival photos, film clips and recordings.
The Execution: Much like Jazz, this overly ambitious set has its pros and cons. On the plus side, it’s all killer and no filler, with dozens of essential classics. On the downside, 68 songs is just a drop in the bucket. And the compilers’ decision to include so many genres means some get even shorter shrift. Can you really sum up folk music in eight songs?
Names Dropped: The Carter Family, Hank Williams, B.B. King, Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Mahalia Jackson, Woody Guthrie, Bob Dylan, Lead Belly.
Choice Cuts: Standards like Bessie Smith’s St. Louis Blues, Muddy Waters’ Got My Mojo Working, Woody Guthrie’s This Land Is Your Land, Lead Belly’s Goodnight Irene and Hank Williams’ Cold Cold Heart.
Extras! Extras! A snazzy 56-page book with essays, pictures and mini-bios of all artists.
Perfect For: The neophyte who wants a little of everything.