Hard to believe Sugar Hill is already cruising toward its thirtieth anniversary. Founded in 1978 by Barry Poss, who turned his back on a sociology doctorate to devote his life to roots music, the label met early success with a Ricky Skaggs release and since then never looked back. Every year, the label has carefully selected projects and cultivated an estimable catalog that offered platforms for underappreciated artists and sounds, from Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver to Jerry Douglas, as well as heralded the legacy of legends, like Doc Watson and Dolly Parton. Although the label’s output has been lauded with awards and recognition (forty-six Grammy nominations, according to its Web site), it has maintained strict quality control by limiting the number of releases to roughly twenty-five per year.
Still, looking back, it’d be hard to pick out a reasonable number of label highlights. Poss has attempted such a feat on Sugar Hill Records: A Retrospective. The boxed set contains four discs that accurately represent the scope of the label’s ear, running from that first Skaggs release (as the group Boone Creek) to the more recent Nickel Creek. Emphasizing diversity of artists makes for scattered listening, but the label’s commitment to modern interpretations of traditional music is clearly illustrated here. The boxed set also includes a DVD with artist interviews and an eighty-page booklet of liner notes written by Poss and Jay Orr, senior director for music programs, Country Music Hall of Fame.