Picks and Pans Review: Gospel Live from Mountain Stage
When most people hear the term "roots music," they tend to think: twangy, rough-hewn, covered in denim. But as proven on Mountain Stage—the live weekly show aired on public radio stations across the country—pop music's roots spring from a variety of soils. The previous 14 entries in this series of compilation CDs brought together live performances by the likes of mod country chanteuse k.d. lang, sardonic folkie Loudon Wainwright III and rock superstars R.E.M. All have been outstanding collections, and these latest additions are no exception.
The mostly acoustic Folk disc, for example, shows the breadth of the genre, from Holly Near to Taj Mahal. Highlights include Richie Havens's fiery take on Jackson Browne's leftist diatribe "Lives in the Balance" and Bill Morrissey's pop-culture satire "Letter from Heaven." The artists on the Gospel anthology stick closer to the glories of God, but it's intriguing to hear how differently Sweet Honey in the Rock, the all-woman a cappella group from Washington, D.C., and the Blind Boys of Alabama can sing their praises. What they all have in common—and share with the artists on the series' previous collections—is the ability to breathe new life into our cultural legacy. (Blue Plate Music)