Various (4 stars)

Putumayo presents Americana

The Putumayo label normally specialises in championing hitherto unsung musical styles from the far flung corners of the globe, collecting them and presenting them in lush, skillfully annotated packages. This chapter is a change of tack in that it tackles a well-recognised genre but focuses on the rootsiest, home-spun tales instead of the high-gloss mainstream country that dominates the US charts (even a track by Norah Jones, performing under a pseudonym, is actually pretty great).

So many of the songs on this concise, 12-track collection sound like they may have been composed on a ratty acoustic guitar on the porch of a shack. But romantic notions aside, this is a stellar collection of those just above the radar artists and while it is inevitable that some clichés of the genre pervade, it is an ilustration of the variety of tones that can be found in the rural music of America.

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