Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

The Rough Guide to Acoustic Africa [World Music Network, 2013]
At this point in history, acoustic is the opposite of authentic in Africa--at least the kind of acoustic that gets near a recording studio. The 16 artists scattered across this collection include tourist bands, factitious folk ensembles, moonlighting dance musicians looking for a payday, academics, and loads of expats. They tend genteel and their albums can be snoozefests. But you can bet every one has the sense to polish up a few tuneful show-stoppers, and assume that Rough-Guide-in-Chief Phil Stanton has found them. Normally I get annoyed when Afrocomps skip from Niger to Madagascar 'cause it's all one big happy continent. But the aesthetic here is so pretty and soft-spoken it rarely matters. Assured, calculated, innocent, and sometimes sublime. A-