Various Putumayo Presents: Acoustic Café

After compiling over 200 volumes of exotic globetrotting world music compilations, Putumayo turns the tables with Acoustic Café. Giving the other 192 countries their first North American-inspired volume, Acoustic Café focuses exclusively on Western-styled singer-songwriter garb. Championing artists who present an unfussy and personable approach to acoustic-based folk and country, South Carolina soother Trevor Hall, Justin Townes Earle (son-of-Steve) and Canada folk hero Harry Manx do a fine job representing the sweetly-soothing-to-stingingly-personal arch that singer-songwriter music often takes. As an introduction, Acoustic Café manages to cover all the basic elements of singer-songwriter fodder: banjo-led sad-sackers (Boulder, Colorado's Gregory Alan Isakov), folkified cover songs (Manx doing Van Morrison and Austin's Sarah Jarosz talking on Dylan) and light-hearted, male-female back-and-forths (Australia's the Waifs). Unfortunately Acoustic Café comes off more like a collection of "whoever was available" than a true blue, essentials comp. (Putumayo)