Music to Give December 1998

Music to Give

The Independent December 1998

By Art Menius

The gift of music can prove a gold mine or a mine field. Pick the right recording for the right person, and you have a present the recipient and friends will enjoy for many years. Doing that, however, is not so easy. Compilations, therefore, frequently provide the best gift idea.

African Heartbeat (Shanachie 6115) lives up to its bold subtitle, “The Essential African Music Collection,” making the set the world music present of choice for 1998. Virtually all the stars of contemporary African music from Ethiopia down to South Africa appear on the 4 discs organized under broad rubrics. Even the most enthusiastic fans of Afropop would be hard pressed to find all 51 cuts in their collection.

The Rough Guide folks deliver another winner with Native American Music: The Rough Guide (Rough Guide RGNET 1029 CD). With their typical breadth, the project touches all the bases of today’s First Nations peoples music in just 18 tracks. We can enjoy pow-wow chants and traditional morning songs, the new age flute of R. Carlos Nakai, the rap of Without Reservation, jazz from Burning Sky, and Indian singer-songwriters live Sharon Burch and Bill Miller.

Few single disc compilations better represented a genre than Bluegrass Essentials (Hip-O HIPD-40102). The record balances the creators (Bill Monroe, Flatt & Scruggs, Reno & Smiley, Stanley Brothers) with today’s stars (Alison Krauss, Chesapeake, Ricky Skaggs) and the artists in between (Country Gentlemen, Jimmy Martin, Dillards). It’s the perfect gift for anyone with a developing interest in bluegrass.

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