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Has watching “Into The West” made you yearn for those simple days of yesteryear, when our country was young, and anything seemed possible? And did you know that all the events of those tumultuous years were accompanied by their own wonderfully unique sound, the original Americana Music? If you’re interested, as we’re sure you are, we’d like to suggest you listen to these wonderful recordings that will surely bring back the sound and the spirit of those days.

INTO THE WEST is an exclusive collection of music inspired by the 6 week television event of the same name, featuring “World On Fire” by Sarah McLachlan with Robbie Robertson, “Simple Song” by Lyle Lovett, a seven-minute rendition of “I’m Not Afraid To Die” by Gillian Welch, and “Fingerspaint” by Douglas Spotted Eagle, an magical musical instrumental track inspired by Indian music, plus more. Dreamworks, available exclusively at Best Buy, $9.95

HAPPY LAND: Musical Tributes To Laura Ingalls Wilder There’s a soundtrack interwoven in the stories of pioneer survival in the Little House books by the beloved Laura Ingalls Wilder, enduring music that can shed light both on Wilder’s stories and America’s musical heritage. In fact, embedded in her stories are references to 126 separate songs and tunes.

Sadly, many fans of the books have never heard the Stephen Foster classics, hymns and spirituals, string band and other music that was such an integral part of life on the prairie. For this new album, top Nashville musicians were brought together by Producers Dale Cockrell and Butch Baldassari, both musicologists at Vanderbilt University’s Blair School of Music, to record fresh versions of songs described in the Little House books.

This recording includes a selection of 18 of those songs, performed in such a way that the music of yesteryear is made new and fresh. Such artists as Riders in the Sky, Dave Olney, Andrea Zonn, and Keith Little among many others, perform. Pa’s Fiddle Recordings, $15.98

BEAUTIFUL DREAMER: The Songs of Stephen Foster Stephen Foster was the first great and distinctly American songwriter. He was the first to stitch together the motley musics that settlers and slaves brought with them from Europe and Africa, writing songs derived from Irish and Scottish Balladry to the African call-and-response, to the Italian Bel Canto operatic style.

On this Grammy Award winning disc, 18 artists have each chosen their favorite Foster songs to perform, and the result is remarkably moving. Hear Alison Krauss sing “Slumber My Darling”, Raul Malo perform “Beautiful Dreamer” and Judith Edelman’s plaintive “No One To Love.” The innovative for its day “Nelly Was a Lady,” here performed by Alvin Youngblood Hart, will bring tears to your eyes. Also appearing are varied artists including Michelle Shocked & Pete Anderson, Roger McGuinn, The Duhks, Ron Sexsmith and Mavis Staples, among others.

Although Foster died penniless in New York City in 1864, his songs will live on forever. American Roots Publishing, $16.98

JONI MITCHELL: Songs of a Prairie Girl From the girl who gave us oft-quoted words, “Take paradise and put up a parking lot” in the 60’s, Joni Mitchell has this year created a not very surpringly intense and beautifully orchestrated compilation cd of some of her songs from the past thirty + years, that pulls hard on your heartstrings.

The cd cover features bleak black-and-white photos of the Canadian Mitchell ice skating on a frozen lake, much like a joyous bird with fringed wings flapping in the wind. The evocative imagery suggests the deeply emotional content within. In songs like “Urge For Going”(1972), “Don Juan’s Reckless Daughter” (1977), “The Tea Leaf Prophesy” (1988), “Ray’s Dad’s Cadillac” (1991), and “Cherokee Louise” (2002), the pointed urgency of classic Americana music is reinvented for the modern day. Like much of Joni Mitchell’s music, this compilation can be listened to and enjoyed….again and again. Rhino Records,, $18.98 / Issue 47 - September 9550
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