A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
by Kerry Dexter
Sixteen tracks to represent the music of the South...that's a task that allows for many approaches. The map of song presented on this disc ranges from Lydia Mendoza's Texas border cancion ("Anque Me Odies") to Bill Monroe's Kentucky bluegrass, from the New Orleans jazz of the Dirty Dozen Brass Band up to Deep Gap in the mountains of North Carolina, for Doc Watson's traditional Appalachian music, and down to south Florida for Betty Mae Jumper's Native American ballads. The most instructive inclusions are cuts by the Allman Brothers ("Statesboro Blues") and Tammy Wynette (her first major hit, "Apartment #9") which place contemporary southern rock, as well as mainstream country, straightforwardly among their roots. Rockabilly is represented by Carl Perkins ("Blue Suede Shoes"). The compilers of the disc have looked at the South not only as a geographical area, but as a spiritual and political region as well. Included is the Freedom Singers' "Woke Up This Mornin' with My Mind Set on Freedom" to represent the songs of the civil rights movement. Tracks by Vera Ward ("Travelin' Shoes"), the Kingsmen, and the Mississippi Mass Choir illustrate the religious side of Southern singing.
It's a thoughtful collection, one best listened to in sequence to learn the most from it. It was the producers' wish to show interrelated aspects of the various cultures that have had their impact on southern creativity. While this is more successful in some areas than others, it's a useful perspective to adopt and certainly one that could lead the listener to follow up on the discs suggested for additional listening in the extensive liner notes.
Crossroads: Southern Routes is Folkways' first enhanced CD- one that you can play in your computer as well as on your CD player. The CD-ROM portion repeats much of the material in the liner notes, but there are additional maps and interviews as well. It's a classy, if not exactly lively, addition to the disc. It isn't accessible to all CD players, even those which may routinely play other enhanced discs. If you own or have access to the latest model Mac or PC, you should have no trouble. If you don't, the music stands just fine on its own.
Edited by Cynthia A. Harney