Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Heritage [Six Degrees/Island, 1997]
I don't know why Darol Anger's name was left off his pet project, but the effect is to conceptualize it. As a result, these "new interpretations of American roots music" seem of a piece with the rest of 1997's folk revival revival, in which the Smithsonian's Harry Smith reissue and Rounder's Alan Lomax exhumation joined the alt-country bubble and the revitalization of Bob Dylan in a single antifuturist countercurrent. But just as there's Americana and then Americana, there's futurism and then futurism--why do you think they call it New Age? And this, by Jiminy, is New Age Americana: fiddler Anger is a Windham Hill stalwart long active on the folk-jazz cusp. Guest vocalist Jane Siberry opens 'er up and brings 'er home, and in between Willie Nelson and Mary Chapin Carpenter, who outdid themselves on Dylan's Jimmie Rodgers tribute, sink into the intelligent sentimentality that is the bane of each. Ditto for long-winded virtuosos David Lindley, David Grisman, and John Hartford, all of whom can be sharper when somebody jabs them a little. The smug soundtrack to a PBS special about tribulation and survival on the lost frontier. C-