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American Heartland album review

Compilations can be a very hit-and-miss affair can’t they? Sometimes you get sucked in by the advertising only to discover that the best songs are the ones you heard in the ad. With the Now series not quite the force they used to be, there are lots of compilations released onto the market each week and it can be hard to separate the good from the bad. Recently released American Heartland is a three CD compilation that contains 47 tracks with a country leaning spanning the last two decades.

Country music is trying its best to break-through here in the UK. With the introduction of C2C: Country To Country earlier in the year at London’s O2, it seems there is definitely a market for the genre over here but commercially it never seems to get all that far in terms of the charts. If you’re on the fence about country then American Heartland is the compilation to help you decide. Similarly if you love country then you’ll absolutely adore this compilation.

American Heartland provides a mix of familiar artists and artists you’re likely to never have heard of. The collection opens with the country version of Kelly Clarkson’s recent hit Mr Know It All which features different instrumentation to the single version and a different vocal from Clarkson. For many it could be the first time that they notice how easily Clarkson’s voice could lend itself to country mix. The song loses none of its original charm and we reckon it could have been just as big a hit if this version had been released.

In terms of the familiar artists on the compilation there’s hits from Shania Twain (You’re Still The One), LeAnn Rimes (How Do I Live), Sheryl Crow (Home), Train (Hey, Soul Sister), Sarah McLachlan (Angel) and Jessica Simpson (These Boots Are Made For Walkin’). These tracks alone are likely to peak interest from those who aren’t sure about country music (granted not all of them are strictly country). Whilst we love these tracks it’s the discovery of lesser known artists that’s the real attraction here. Rising country star Hunter Hayes’ Wanted is a definite standout on the collection whilst Little Big Town’s Pontoon is a summery feel-good tune that makes us want to crank up the speakers and get the BBQ out.

The best discoveries we made with this collection include the superb Martina McBride, who is huge in the US, with her emotive song Concrete Angel, the bluesy-country of Tedeschi Trucks Band on the gorgeous Midnight in Harlem, and the driving country of Jake Owen’s Alone With You. We also loved the harmony-filled Runnin’ Out of Air from duo Love and Theft.

Fans of US singing shows American Idol and The X Factor US will be pleased to see Scotty McCreery (I Love You This Big), Tate Stevens (Holler If You’re With Me), Kellie Pickler (Didn’t You Know How Much I Loved You) and Lauren Alaina (Like My Mother Does). There’s also a track from The Voice US coach, and huge US country star, Blake Shelton (Honey Bee).

There are so many highlights across the 3 CDs it’s impossible to mention every single one. It’s nice to see the late Mindy McCready included here with her hit Oh Romeo, and the mix of artists is truly impressive. Like us you’ll likely know the majority of the names but not necessarily know their music. This should all change if you get yourself a copy of this excellent compilation. American Heartland shows that compilations can be truly great with not a single duff track across the selection here.

Pip Ellwood-Hughes
Pip Ellwood-Hughes
Pip is the Editor of Entertainment Focus and the Managing Director of agency Piñata Media.

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