The score to Ken Burns'sMark Twainwill feel instantly familiar to fans of the popular documentary filmmaker's earlier work. As with Burns'sThe Civil WarandBaseball, pianist Jacqueline Schwab and multi-instrumentalist Bobby Horton have been enlisted to tailor tunes to suit Burns's needs. Schwab provides gracious takes on traditional songs such as "Wagoner's Lad" and "Sweet Betsy from Page," contributing to the drawing-room ambiance of the score. Horton, meanwhile, brings a bit more frontier texture to the proceedings on the string-driven likes of "Dogue Creek" (one of three new numbers from Al Petteway), "Poor Wayfarin' Stranger," and "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot." Actor Kevin Conway stands in for the man of the hour, reading witticisms from Twain and pulling the package together.--Steven Stolder
This is a slick little recording that sanitizes the tops of the pops of roots music - sort of a roots muzak experience. It's a pleasurable enough listen, and Bobby Horton is a wonder as a solo string player who overdubs up to 7 instruments on a much too up-tempo version of "Hard Times," but it's all just too, too clean. Good background music, though.