Setting off from last week’s Felice Brothers’ ‘Jazz On The Autobahn’ let’s connect with something to do with highways. If that sounds too easy we shall stick with that exact German definition and see what adventure might be had out on the autobahn. Defining americana is a constant quest but even the broadest interpretation cannot possibly include Kraftwerk. No, our exit from the autobahn is to the German record label Bear Family Records.
This independent label should appeal to fans of americana because of its vast range of reissued archive material. Founded in 1975 by record collector Richard Weizel Bear’s first release was bluegrass maestro Bill Clifton’s ‘Going Back to Dixie’. Since then the label has built a deservedly strong reputation around the release of sumptuous box sets consisting of several CDs or albums plus detailed books. Country is perhaps the label’s biggest department with recordings by all the great names but Bear Family Records also has huge depth in blues, jazz, folk, bluegrass, cajun, zydeco, rock, R&B, rockabilly, soul. The list goes on but if you are interested in the roots of americana Bear Family Records is a veritable treasure trove of discoveries. Releases coming up are Connie Smith, a Beale Street compilation and Jimmy Reed.
A word of warning though, some of these box sets are not cheap. But on the you get what you pay for principle, the quality and level of detail are often amazing. Here’s a beauty of an example.