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Various Artists

Box of the Blues (Rounder)

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Unburdened by affiliation with PBS or Martin Scorsese or any fussy authoritativeness, this four-disc comp featuring a variety of Rounder artists is breezy fun and almost exactly what its title promises. It's not the be-all box of blues, but it ain't bad. Rounder follows the example of Rhino's classic Beg, Scream & Shout '60s soul set by limiting each artist to a single track and by not bothering to teach us anything. (Scorsese's track lists, on the other hand, reek of homework.) As long as you aren't fretting about authenticity -- who would have thought Marcia Ball and Big Bill Broozny had anything to do with each other? -- it's a pleasure to nod along with. For all their strangled moaning, the original bluesmen begat a music that is today remarkably unbruised. Nothing here hurts, except on aesthetic grounds. These blues are more about swing and sass than grit and sweat, but for those who already have grit and sweat covered, all this Smokey Wilson and Johnny Adams is a nice change of pace. Of the sixty cuts, only ten or so clunk into Dan Aykroyd territory. The set clocks in at around $28, but each dollar spent translates into about seven minutes of enjoyable pastiche, which will probably work out better for you than pledging that cash to PBS.

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