Dutch discount reissue label Disky's four-CD box set American Roots: A History of American Folk Music is an ambitious undertaking, at least as far as sheer length is concerned. In other respects, it can be considered skimpy: the packaging is negligible; there are no annotations beyond song titles, artist and songwriter credits, and copyright dates; and the selections, probably mastered from records, often have a primitive sound quality. But the compilation still manages to be an exhaustive collection of vital American acoustic music. Three of the four discs consist of music that today would be referred to as "country," though in its day it was called "hillbilly," and for a period in the 1940s actually was known as folk music. Running from 1927 to 1948, the roughly chronological selections trace some of its earliest recorded manifestations to the beginnings of the modern country music industry. The major early names in country music are extensively represented, with many well-known songs included. Country music is not generally thought of in the same category as folk music in America, if only for political reasons. It may have taken a Dutch compilation to point out the musical similarities by devoting CD four to the urban folk singers of the 1940s (Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger), who borrowed many of their tunes from hillbilly predecessors. After listening to the earlier discs, the concordances are inescapable; you can tell that the city-based folkies deliberately based their approach on rural forebears who wouldn't have thought much of their political views. It seems that, while American record labels continue to assert copyright claims on this material domestically, Europeans are free to consider anything more than 50 years old as in the public domain. But that doesn't explain why American Roots is being readily imported into the U.S., where it was sold for less than $30 by one mail-order firm beginning in 2000. At that price, it's a remarkable bargain, making available a wealth of vintage country and folk material that is difficult to come by in any form, much less gathered into one box set. On that basis, American Roots can be highly recommended.