Various Artists

The biggest no-one-saw-it-coming success in music in recent years has to be the multiplatinum O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack. Since then, head-scratching record execs have been trying to divine the magic that made that high-lonesome collection such a smash among baby boomers. The latest attempt to recapture that magic (and profit) comes in the form of this four-disc, cover-all-the-bases-and-then-some collection from Columbia, and its sheer scope is admirable. Ample slices of ol'-timey pie by the likes of Roy Acuff, the Carter Family and Bill Monroe are included along with tracks by modern bluegrass warriors Ricky Skaggs and Del McCoury. Even better, obscure artists like Gid Tanner and His Skillet Lickers, and Charlie Poole get proper billing.

Yet for all its kitchen-sink coverage, one suspects that including dubious practitioners like the Byrds and chart-toppers like the Dixie Chicks had more to do with commerce than aesthetics. Their selections may sound right at home, but more hillbillies and less Beverly Hills would have made the recipe more authentic.


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