If you’re looking for a rewarding way to celebrate America’s greatest gift to the world—its music—this is a fine place to start. Subtitled Two Hundred Years of American Song, this 20-track collection by the Valatie husband-and-wife duo of Sheri Bauer-Mayorga (vocals) and Lincoln Mayorga (piano) is the aural equivalent of a Ken Burns documentary, a broad-scoped survey of American popular music via works by songsmiths ranging from Stephen Foster to Randy Newman, Louis Moreau Gottschalk to John Fogerty, Hoagy Carmichael to Tom Lehrer. Ambitious? Very. But the Mayorgas are up to the challenge, and they make it all flow like the rich, resilient, single-cloth epic it is.
Arranger and composer Lincoln Mayorga is behind the award-winning scores of such films as The Rose, Chinatown, Fame, and Ragtime; while Sheri Bauer-Mayorga has worked in New York’s theater and new music scenes, and frequently appears on WAMC’s “Dancing on the Air.” With light accompaniment from bass, drums, guitar, violin, and sax, the couple lovingly thumbs the pages of the American songbook, for a warm session of front-parlor intimacy. As the program passes from ballads to bebop to ragtime and pop, one under-referenced aspect hits home about America’s musical tradition: its consistent affinity for protest tunes. (See Otis Blackwell’s “Tell Me Why You Like [Franklin Delano] Roosevelt,” Ochs’s “Love Me, I’m a Liberal,” and Fogerty’s “Déjà Vu (All Over Again).”) So if history has anything to do with it, dissent is far more American than Applebee’s or NASCAR will ever be.