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Travail-less Travels

Putumayo and Rough Guide samplers offer up armchair adventures for jittery Americans

Much more accessible is The Music of Brazil, the Rough Guide's foray into one of the densest musical jungles on the planet. Including an example of every influential style in Brazil would require a boxed set, but this hits most of the hot spots. While its abbreviated Putumayo counterpart, Brasileiro, rests on the backs of performers with some name recognition stateside (João Bosco, Jorge Ben, Clara Nunes), the Rough Guide showcases artists who have yet to make a splash outside the homeland. Thus a sense of discovery permeates the disc, even on the more predictable sambas. Not especially splashy and even raw at times, the sparkle is hidden in the folds of the music and must be teased out. On a more micro scale, The Rough Guide to Samba takes a similar approach, slipping below the radar screen to find the musicians one might encounter any night of the week in the clubs and cafes of Rio. While other pan-Brazilian collections rival the Rough Guide (Rykodisc's Brazilliance, Luaka Bop's Brazil Classics series), The Rough Guide to Samba stands by itself.

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