When pundits talk about the state of the music biz these days, the emphasis tends to fall on its failings, specifically the disintegration of the traditional record company structure. Most of the major labels have morphed into single entities in recent years, reducing the number of major companies to only three international organizations. Consequently, when an indie outfit learns to successfully compete in that rough and tumble competitive world, it's no small feat. Likewise, when they actually make an imprint, it's all the more impressive indeed.
Hence, there's reason to celebrate those successes and "Signature Sounds 20th Anniversary Collection: Rarities from the Second Decade" demonstrates the reasons why. While a collection of unreleased recordings from the likes of Crooked Still, Winterpills, Chris Smither, Zoe Muth and the other dozen or so artists included in this collection will primarily appeal to the nu-folk, bluegrass and Americana crowd, the fact that Signature Sounds can muster such an impressive roster says more than even the actual songs themselves.
On the other hand, given those artists that are represented here, it's instantly obvious that the music measures up. So while some will seek this compilation out for completist purposes, others will find it an exceptional sampler, one that will likely compel them to explore even more.
Considering the number of highly worthyt artists, singling out any individual entry can be a challenge. Jeffrey Foulcault's revved-up "Real Love," Barnstar!'s remarkably rollicking version of Joni Mitchell's "Carey," Caroline Herring's sublime take on Kate Wolf's "Here In California" and Parsonfield's deliriously intoxicating "Moonshiner" are obvious standouts, but they're but a few examples of the diversity these artists offer. Then again, great music knows no boundaries, and under the welcoming umbrella of one of the millennium's great - and still amazingly unassuming - record labels, these artists ultimately prove that it is, as that oft used cliché reminds us, it's the music that matters most. Thanks to Signature Sounds for providing it with such safe haven.