Album Review: Golden Age - 25 Years of Signature Sounds

Iconic roots music label celebrates a quarter century in the music business with collection of tracks curated by the label's founder.

As compact discs made their popularity in the 1990s it seemed as if the good times would continue on forever where record labels — large or small — could thrive on the profit margins of albums. Back then, a record label like Signature Sounds existed in 1995 as a way to support local performers in Massachusetts, the kind of singer/songwriters who could sell a couple thousand albums a year and be successful. Jim Olsen started he label with Mark Thayer and Olsen remains at the helm of the label 25 years.

This collection — which also exists as a streaming playlist for those who do not wish to own CDs these days — works as a great extended 37 song playlist of songs that showcases the many great artists who have recorded for the label which served as the first home for artists like Mark Erelli, Josh Ritter, Erin McKeown, Eileen Jewell and helped Lori McKenna break out. Other icons of the singer/songwriter and roots music world, Caroline Herring, Richard Schindell, Lake Street Drive, Peter Mulvey, Mary Gauthier, and Chris Smither.

There’s a great flow to the songs featured on Golden Age: 25 Years Of Signature Sounds and while there’s not really anything that screams “mainstream," that wasn't the intent of the album and playlist. Thus, Golden Age: 25 Years Of Signature Sounds is a strong showcase and primer for digging deeper into the catalog of artists and songs that Signature Sounds has championed through the years. Some of my personal favorite artists and writers have recorded for the label — including Jeffrey Foucault, the previously mentioned McKenna, Gauthier and Zoe Muth. These artists, along with others like bands Parsonsfield, The Sweetback Sisters, Redbird, Dustbowl Revival, and Twisted Pine all are worthy of our attention.

While Signature Sounds rode the wave of massive (for the acoustic/folk/singer-songwriter worlds) sales and success of artists like Ritter and McKeown allowed Signature Sounds to grow even more but never losing its focus on singularly unique talent which helped the label become a stalwart in the all-encompassing Americana music movement with artist-centric festivals and support.

This is a label worth championing and Golden Age: 25 Years Of Signature Sounds is a collection worth seeking out. While streaming may be great, we hope you’ll consider purchasing the album digitally from the label, a DSP or get the cool CD collection to support the indie label as it heads into its next 25 years.