These explorations of the African-American presence in country music are welcome at a time when country music is treated, by insiders and outsiders, as a purely white genre, and exceptions to that are treated as aberrations, gimmicks or novelty songs.
There are at least four various artists tribute albums to Kris Kristofferson, all released in the last 11 years. Why him? Is it about the songwriter or the songs? The musicians or the listeners? The present or the past? The albums themselves might provide the answers.
All of the albums that critics/fans who fancy themselves “pure” country defenders have praised as the best of 2012 carry a heavy aura of the past about them. But how much can country music progress if it’s spending all of its time looking back?