As the title suggests, this album is a sampler spanning the years 1995 till '99 with at least some of the songs issued on previous records. If you're not familiar with Kate's songs and have any interest in the South of the USA, she's the voice to listen to, before you head south and take along The Portable Kate Campbell as a guide through bits of history and southern landscape. Her songs reflect her deep love for the southern states, as well as her concern for events in the history of the last half century. Lots of memories come alive in the lyrics that often come up with a surprise twist, as in her song Galaxie 500 about the family car of her youth. While being left in the car while mom went shopping (that was possible at some point in time), they heard on the news that Martin Luther King was shot. In the end her dad trades that car for a Japanese compact.
Several other songs deal with childhood memories and tell the story from the refreshing angle of a questioning youth. My favorite there is Crazy in Alabama where she sings about the mother of ten kids who is caught turning tricks to make the money to feed them. The colored kids were not allowed at the swimming pool, for ice cream they had to stand in a separate line. "It was crazy there were grown men fights over segregation and civil rights, Martin Luther King and the KKK, George C. Wallace and LBJ…" And the freedom marchers going by…history coming alive.
Vision of Plenty deals with the dreams of a working woman but she's discouraged by the facts of her life, not being able to improve on her and her children's fate through hard labor, she is sucked in to the gambling hall by the promise of a better future.
Another working woman is the focus in Rosa's Coronas, this time a cigar roller in Cuba who sees her daughter and grand daughter flee to the US by boat. Of course she's concerned about how they're doing with the news of violence up there. And she's determined to see the Pope during his visit even though she's not supposed to leave her work place, times do change if ever so slowly.
The upheavals and human misfortunes are too much for looking away, but in the arms of a lover it becomes A Perfect World. This is a very tender but not cheesy love song, a beautiful duet with Rodney Crowell.
Kate's voice and her musical style comfortably settle her in the best of Southern Country. The words are carried by melodies that seem to be old friends or should quickly become new ones. She's equally at home singing tender ballads and harder driving road songs. Though her singing is center stage where it should be, the support of her musicians is excellent, in a nice way understated but right there to create the mood for each song. I wish we would have had songs like that to illustrate history from a personal view, actually her music certainly should be featured in classes about the Civil Rights Movement.
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