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Southbound Beat Magazine



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CD Review



VA - Rockin' From The Roots Anthology
Hightone Records
            Of all the roots rock labels that sprung up in the late '80's/early '90's thanks to the mini blues boom of the '80's and the simultaneous rise of country music mavericks like Dwight Yoakam, Lyle Lovett, Jason and the Scorchers and Dave Alvin, Hightone Records stands head and shoulders above all of them. Never afraid to take chances and always too cool to play it safe, Hightone Records always championed a diverse roster of artists that included folk singers, rockabilly shouters, hooters and down and dirty rockers too fuzzed out and lo-fi to get a shot on any major label. While the label's "land of broken toys" approach to its' roster would never work in the 'big leagues' Hightone always kept its' head above water by making sure whatever they released was down to earth and true to life. There are no "image consultants" or music by committee - when you pick something up on Hightone you know it's going to be honest, heart-felt music. That fact is epitomized by this new sampler, a celebration of how Hightone has given music fans some of the best roots music ever made.
            If only the big labels felt the same way about their product.
            On Hightone, there are no popsters trying out the newest musical fad, no samples, usually no synthesizers, no pretenses, no glitter makeup or outlandish costumes, no teenage candy-floss sugar-pop, no boy bands, no rappers, no dance remixes, no choreographed dance moves, no pretty boys, no Diane Warren songs, no P-Diddlydoodah (or whatever he calls himself now), no Pro-Tools (well, maybe a little) and no gettin'-above-your-raisin's. This shit is real - stuff you hear on the back porch or when four or five guys plug in at someone's cluttered garage and play what's in their hearts. That's what you get when you listen to Hightone and thank God. Would the likes of Warners or Columbia dedicate themselves to the same kind of high quality as Hightone the music business might not be going through the upheaval it's enduring right now. There is no throw-it-against-the-wall-and-see-if-it-sticks at Hightone. Every artists is treated as the label's best because the artists put their best into the music, and that's what it is supposed to be about.
            Artists like Robert Cray, Joe Louis Walker, Buddy and Julie Miller, Dave Alvin, Bill Kirchen and P.F. Sloan are represented here, as are a host of others. All artists known for their dedication to their music, improving their craft and baring their souls because their audiences demand the truth and they are only too happy to give it. None of these artists save Cray have ever sold big numbers as artists. Maybe one or two (Sloan being the best example) have scored a decent payday by having a big-name artist cover their songs. Mostly, these artists are out scuffling, playing as many dates as they can to support themselves so they can put out the next CD. Big budgets are not the reason these artists are on Hightone. Rather, the label is only too happy to let the artist have free rein and be able to present their art the way they feel it should be presented.
            Being a sampler, by design this 2 CD set should appeal to anyone and everyone who loves American roots music. For sure there's a varied amount of it on here. Everything I've spoken about above and a heaping scoopful more. If you love the ring of an acoustic guitar or the swelling sound of one that's plugged into a Fender amp, the throbbing heartbeat pulse of an electric bass, the sound of someone bashing away on a old-fashioned drum kit and some piano or maybe a Hammond or two, you'll love a great portion of the stuff on here. And if you don't like any of that, there's still some stuff on here you might like. This compilation is the definition of all-killer no-filler. Great stuff, pick it up. - Scott Homewood



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