Since A Prairie Home Companion first went on air, July 6, 1974, a steady stream of great musicians has crossed its stage — The Steele Sisters, Gillian Welch and Dave Rawlings, Peter Ostroushko, The Wailin Jennys, Robin and Linda Williams Iris DeMent, Howard Levy — plus the radio detective Guy Noir, the Cowboys Dusty and Lefty, the librarian Ruth Harrison, Duane and his Mother, and the good people if Lake Wobegon, Minnesota. An all-star roster of favorite performers joined to celebrate the anniversary on the lawn of Macalester, College in St. Paul, a stone’s throw from the hall where the first broadcast was made. Some highlights from that show are presented here, interwoven with archival performances by Doc Watson, Odetta, Pete Seeger, Helen Schneyer, Chet Atkins, Bill Hinkley & Judy Larson, Soupy Schindler, and Tom Keith, With a memory-filled souvenir booklet.
It’s been 25 years since Garrison Keillor first began charming audiences with the goings-on of the strong women, good-looking men, and above-average children in his mythical Minnesota town. Keiller’s storytelling alchemy (part literary orchestra, part gossip), gentle humor, and deadpan (or is that just Midwestern?) delivery are what have made Prairie Home Companion a stalwart of public radio. This collection commemorates the quarter century of the program’s continuing success with 15 monologues (7 of which have not previously been available) and 33 of the most (in)famous songs and jingles, including “Cowpies,” Keiller’s tribute to the brains behind the impeachment trial; “Gospel Birds”; and “The Secret Lutherans.” (Running time: 6 hours, 4 cassettes) –Natasha Senjanovic