Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

American Epic: The Collection [Lo-Max/Third Man/Columbia/Legacy, 2017]
The Anthology of American Folk Music isn't just a hard act to follow, it's an impossible act to follow, because its 84 songs do literally constitute a canon. But the 100 selections on these five discs make for quite the sequel. Replicating only 11 Harry Smith picks, including several--"James Alley Blues," "Peg and Awl," "Down on Penny's Farm"--that I never ever mind hearing again, they also nab essentials Smith let slide: "Old Dan Tucker," "Sallie Gooden," "Blues in a Bottle," "Sittin' on Top of the World," "Walk Right In," "'Taint Nobody's Business if I Do." Robert Johnson and Jimmie Rodgers are here, Geeshie Wiley's "Last Kind Word Blues" and Emmett Miller's "Lovesick Blues" and Washington Phillips's "Denomination Blues." Irresistibles that were news to me include the Dixieland Jug Blowers' "Banjoreno," Whistler's Jug Band's "Foldin' Bed," Burnett and Rutherford's "Ladies on the Steamboat," the Massey Family's "Brown Skin Gal (Down the Lane)," Lydia Mendoza's "Mal Hombre," Lane Hardin's "Hard Times," and Truett and George's "Ghost Dance." Though disc three falls short however righteous the multilingualism that is one reason why, the other four overreach with attitude. The audio improves markedly on Anthology's. The liner notes are solid where Smith's were fanciful. Lyrics are included. So what are you waiting for? A