The Century of Country CD-ROM is a comprehensive listing of information about artists, bands and personalities, professionally assembled into a easy-to-use software package. There are over 1300 listings including plenty of bluegrass bands and personalities.
Your choices on the main menu screen take you to the major functions of the encyclopedia – Artist Profiles, the Media Gallery, an Address Book and a Calendar – along with a set of utility functions including Search, Index, Help and Glossary. The main menu screen also cycles through the artist photos, each of which is actually a link to the encyclopedia entry for that artist.
The Artist Profile section is the meat of the encyclopedia. The text contents are impressive and don’t focus exclusively on major artists. You can browse through the index and find artists as diverse as Eddie Adcock, Commander Cody, Skeets McDonald and Tracy Schwarz. Each listing includes personal information, a biography, a listing of awards and a discography, along with occasional photos, sound clips and videos. It’s an incredible resource for anyone who is interested in the large-scale history of country music.
The Media Gallery is the comprehensive listing of the photos, sound and video clips. There are nearly 800 photos, both portraits and events, 45 audio interviews, 7 song samples (very odd choice – two are Randy Travis, which is understandable but the other five are from insignificant artists Linda Davis and Jessica Andrews). There are 36 video clips, but all are taken from various awards shows. The lack of more multimedia selections isn’t surprising, though, considering how difficult licensing must be for the original sources, but I don’t really view this as an effective multimedia encyclopedia.
The Address Book will be a valuable resource for music professionals, containing almost 1400 addresses and telephone numbers for record labels, artist management, agents, publishers, organizations, places of interest and fan clubs. The Calendar is a minor amusement, featuring "This Day in Country Music" and a trivia quiz. It’s not clear if it can be run as a separate application, although it would be nice if that were possible.
Installing the software on my laptop computer running Windows 98 was quick and easy. The default installation requires about 17 MB of disk space, but that includes about 16 MB devoted to the main database. There is a compact installation option which presumably leaves this on the CD-ROM. The software recognized the built-in sound card, and the program folder includes a link to uninstall everything.