You'll recall Janet Reno made her transition from Attorney General to pop culture icon via Will Farrell impersonating her on Saturday Night Live. While Farrell's character didn't have rythm it was always clear that Ms. Reno had soul. Now, the truck driving prosecutor is back in the pop culture spotlight channeling her inner Zach Braff. But, instead of doing a movie soundtrack Ms. Reno decided to put one together for America. Since it's a pretty big country, it makes sense that you'd have to have a pretty big selection (or multiple volumes that we'll no doubt see) to capture the sounds of the nation. Appropriately, Songs of America is a 50 track, 3 cd set.
Of course, any collection that purports to be the "songs of America" has to include John Mellencamp. Under the "little pink houses rule" you gotta have some Mellancamp. Being a student of rules, Reno complies. John contributes his take on "This Land Is Your Land", whose lyrics are even more timely today as certain politicians try to separate the country in two parts.
Also you have to include something about America's hometown. That falls under the "cheese steak rule." Betty LaVette turns in a soulful version of "Streets of Philadelphia" (listen here). For those unfamiliar with Bettye, the Detroit native was on Atlantic Records in the 1960s and toured with greats like Ben E. King, Otis Redding and James Brown. Fast forward to 2007, LaVette released a new record co-produced by Patterson Hood with his Drive By Truckers serving as the backing band. Now that image speaks to where we've come as a nation - a black woman from Detroit recording with a southern rock band in Muscle Shoals, Alabama.
Indeed, Reno captures our societal growth with a diverse lineup. Old Crow Medicine Show, The Blind Boys of Alabama, Martha Wainwright, The Black Crowes, Andrew Bird, and Devendra Banhart are among the artists selected to help tell our story through song. This sounds like something you need to pop into your cd player for a trip across Route 66. Just watch out for the lady in the red pick up.