Various Face A Frowning World: An E.C. Ball Memorial Album

One of the most obvious traits that Canadian music generally lacks is the gospel tradition. It's difficult, especially for younger listeners, to understand its ability to unite people. E.C. Ball's music fulfilled that purpose for his Virginia community up until his death in 1978, and his unique baritone voice and graceful guitar playing reached many more ears through the Library of Congress recordings he and his wife made beginning in 1937. Face A Frowning World features a host of artists that possess some connection to that approach, such as Bonnie "Prince" Billy, the Handsome Family, Jolie Holland and Jon Langford. While it's hard to gauge how much direct influence Ball has had on the alt-folk movement of the past two decades, the performances here achieve the intimacy he always strove for in his interpretations. Moreover, the gospel messages inherent to most of the songs are not dogmatic. Instead, the themes are generally homespun and hopeful, guaranteeing that Face A Frowning World will put a smile on anyone's face. (Tompkins Square)