various artists,
The Singer-Songwriter Collection
(Rounder, 2002)

The Singer-Songwriter Collection may be a rather misleading title since this CD truly is just a collection of Rounder Record's singer-songwriters. However, considering that Rounder is a label that tends to sign fairly reputable singer-songwriters, the work found on this CD may not be a bad start for those just starting to explore such North American acoustic artists. (All of the performers represented are American with the exception of Canadian Lynn Miles, whose pensive song about survival, "I'm Still Here," serves as a good introduction to her talent.)

However, the performers chosen do represent a mix of singer-songwriters, ranging from Nanci Griffith's early work, demonstrated here by "Love at the Five and Dime," to the late Jim Ringer's "Tramps and Hawkers." (Ringer's musical partner, Mary McCaslin, also is included with her solo piece "Young Westley.") Classic folkies such as Utah Phillips, with "Enola Gay," mingle with "newer" kids on the block Ellis Paul ("Weightless") and Carrie Newcomer ("The Moon Over Tucson"). New Hampshire native Bill Staines is on the same CD as southerner Tanya Savory. Relative unknown Kimberly M'Carver, who sings a composition written in both English and Spanish, shares space with Christine Lavin, founder of the Four Bitchin' Babes. Rounder has attempted to arrange a mix to match various musical tastes within a fairly wide genre.

The selections themselves are interesting choices. Cheryl Wheeler, known for her humorous compositions, contributes a serious one here, "Howl at the Moon." Christine Lavin's "Ain't Love Grand," is one of her more serious efforts as well. It's probably just as well. While their comical songs are fun, they're often topical and tied too closely to a certain time and place, whereas their more serious compositions can be more universal in the long run. On the other hand, Bill Morrissey's "She's That Kind of Mystery" is a good example of his overall work. This love song/story, featuring Shawn Colvin on backing vocals, demonstrates his usual gift of imagery against his acoustic guitar and Robin Batteau's violin. While Patty Larkin's contribution is entitled "Metal Drums," it allows listeners to realize what an excellent guitarist she is; while Vance Gilbert's "Icarus By Night" displays his effective tenor.

Not all of the artists represented on this album are Rounder artists at this date. However, this CD represents the work they created when they were signed to that label. It's a fairly safe CD for those new to this sort of folk music. If you like one or two of the artists but aren't familiar with any of the others, it's a relatively risk-free investment.

[ by Ellen Rawson ]
Rambles: 28 September 2002

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