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In a series of indelible portraits of country music stars Dawidoff reveals among others Jimmie Rodgers the “father of Country”; Johnny Cash the “Man in Black”; and Patsy Cline a lonely figure striding out bravely in a man’s world In the Country of Coun. In preparation for an upcoming trip to Nashville Super informative about some well known country stars and some new to me country legends Also he ends the book with Bruce Springsteen so we know he s right

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In the Country of Country: A Journey to the Roots of American Music

Es like Maces Springs Virginia home of the Carter Family and Bakersfield California where Buck Owens held sway Bestselling author Nicholas Dawidoff takes readers to the back roads and country hollows that were home to Chet Atkins Doc Watson Emmylou Harris and ma. In the Country of Country by Nicholas Dawidoff Random House 1997 365 pp 18951499 explores country music from its earliest recognized and recorded luminaries The Carter Family Jimmy Rodgers through the great periods of classic and outlaw country to the newest musicians on tour at the time of the book s writing in the late 1990 s The book is filled with anecdotes that surprise and enlighten For instance Dawidoff recounts a story heard from Charlie Louvin about a boy near a show in Dyess Arkansas who showed him to the nearest bathroom On the way back Charlie ate a soda cracker When the boy asked him why he said To keep from starving The kicker that s why Johnny Cash ate crackers before every performance Such connections between the early practitioners who emerged in the 1940 s and great stars of the last decades of the twentieth century appear everywhere While I read the book I listened to recordings of the subjects of each chapter thereby enriching my experience and deepening my understanding Individual chapters focus on major figures in the development of country music including bluegrass Dawidoff interviewed all of his subjects including Bill Monroe Earle Scruggs George Jones Kitty Wells Doc Watson Buck Owens EmmyLou Harris and except Jimmie Rodgers Sara Carter and Patsy Cline all of whom were deceased at the time of the writing One other luminary is strangely not included although his name crops up in almost every chapter Hank Williams Perhaps Williams who died in 1953 was simply too big and dominating a character to be adeuately covered in simply a chapter It s a joy to read a book about music by a writer who s taking on a subject rather than a fan who decided to write The use of lively imagery thoughtful narrative careful structure and apt description raise Dawidoff s writing above the pedestrian bringing life to the characters who ve enriched country music for nearly a hundred years Published in 1998 the book uses living artists and extensive interviews with those who knew the subjects bringing them to life in a way no other book I ve read has managed In the chapter on Doc Watson the actual voices of Tom Ashley and Ralph Rinzler give the descriptive passages a greater reality that brings Watson s background and development as a performer to life Insights such as the fact that Doc grew up with music he heard on an old gramophone and the radio differentiated his music from that of others who learned theirs in church or on the front porch giving it the distinctive precision that other country and bluegrass musicians of the time lacked Such connections found in each chapter distinguish Dawidoff s pellucid writing as they permeate Watson s playing The Johnny Cash chapter examines the role of celebrity on productive song writing along with his image life and the road with comments from Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen In the George Jones chapter I learned about the reality of Jones in one short chapter than I did in the entire Grand Tour bio by Rich Kienzle Part of this comes from the uality of Dawidoff s writing and I think also from the distance he achieves by not being fully tied to the music community While the book is often admiring it never falls into hero worship as it keeps a clear though sympathetic but never sycophantical eye on the character and development of each person in every profile Dawidoff gives attention to the social and geographical mass movements of the mid and late twentieth century Often this is a book of displacement and connection Most of the singers profiled came to stardom in music when they brought their music to honky tonks theaters and recording studios far removed from the southern poverty so many of them were born into during the depression Even performers like Rose Maddox and Buck Owens who were from California are the of product of southern migrations to places where they or their parents could find lucrative employment or escape the rigors of depression era farming conditions His insights punctuate and extend the insight that today s country musicians don t share that experience leading their music to go into other directions because it has often come from less challenging circumstances EmmyLou Harris represents a changing voice and sensibility in country music Discussing her view of country s past and future she says We re bringing a different experience to it and that s right Mimicking the past because the past is a safe bet is the worst thing to do Nicholas Dawidoff is the author of six books One of them The Fly Swatter was a Pulitzer Prize finalist and another In the Country of Country was named one of the greatest all time works of travel literature by Conde Nast Traveller His first book The Catcher Was A Spy The Mysterious Life Of Moe Berg was a national bestseller and appeared on many 1994 best book lists His latest book Collision Low Crossers Inside the Turbulent World of NFL Football was published in 2014 A graduate of Harvard University he has been a Guggenheim Civitella Ranieri and Berlin Prize Fellow and is a contributor to The New Yorker The New York Times Magazine and the American Scholar The fact that he chooses a wide range of topics including sports family history and country music suggests that Dawidoff brings broad experience to his writing allowing unusual piercing insights to emerge In the Country of Country by Nicholas Dawidoff Random House 1997 365 pp 18951499 was written after all the people he interviewed were well past their prime Fortunately he was able to interview them in their own contemporary setting before they left us He portrays a time when what so many people today call real country was still a close memory even while it had been replaced in popular music by rock and roll contemporary pop and hip hop His vivid profiles along with my listening contemporaneously to the performers themselves helped clarify their place in music history for me and to realize why the music so many people seem to yearn for lies in our past rather than our present I consider this book to be essential reading for anyone interested in the growth and development of country music I read In the Country of Country in a used trade paperback version I bought through Thriftbooks Note All books mentioned in my reviews are linked to the book through my com account If you wish to purchase the title in any format you can do so thorough my link This will result in a small commission to me with no increase in the price for you It helps maintain our travels writing and photography while assuring your complete privacy

Nicholas Dawidoff é 0 REVIEW

Try is a passionate and expansive account of a uintessentially American art form and the performers that made country music what it is today Both deeply personal and endlessly evocative  In the Country of Country pays tribute to the music that sprang from plac. Written in 1997 so some of the information is a little dated it is nevertheless an enjoyable tour through country music by using biographical sketches of some of its premier performers Included in the sweep are the likes of Bill Monroe Johnny Cash and Emmylou Harris Since the book was published the distinctions between the genres have become increasingly blurred with Shania Twain Carrie Underwood and other prominent crossover artists This was a source of tension for traditionalists beginning in the 50s The purists insisted that country was bound to rural roots and emphasized the emotional texture of music This stands in contrast to Hot country embraces a broader range of performers from Elvis to many of the current divas Regardless of one s position on defining genres Dawidoff captures the spirit of the country as it moved from a regional to a national and even international phenomenon and established itself with a permanent spot on the American musical landscape


10 thoughts on “In the Country of Country: A Journey to the Roots of American Music

  1. says:

    In preparation for an upcoming trip to Nashville Super informative about some well known country stars and some new to me country legends Also he ends the book with Bruce Springsteen so we know he's right

  2. says:

    In The Country Of Country is enthralling Nicholas Dawidoff has compiled hours of research and interviews with coun

  3. says:

    In The Country of Country bills itself as a look at the history of country music But if apply the same method of picking and choosing what you consider country music as does author Nicholas Dawidoff then half of this book has nothing to do with country music Dawidoff is plainly not a fan of Hot Country which is the euivalent of Top 40 in the pop world By discounting that as a separate style of music then one must also throw out his chapte

  4. says:

    Written in 1997 so some of the information is a little dated it is nevertheless an enjoyable tour through country music by using biographical sketches of some of its premier performers Included in the sweep are the likes of Bill Monro

  5. says:

    Reading this was a reminder of songs that I had heard and forgotten growing up Each section on individual singers or groups sent me to YouTube for hours of hunting through songs both familiar and unfamiliar While I'm not a musician I found the descriptions of the lives in the early and middle part of the twentieth centur

  6. says:

    IN THE COUNTRY OF COUNTRY is an enjoyable book if not an indispensable one where we learn about some of the roots of our marvelous American country music treeThe author has a clear respect for this music and to understand it better spent much t

  7. says:

    In the Country of Country by Nicholas Dawidoff Random House 1997 365 pp 18951499 explores country music from its earliest recognized and recorded luminaries The Carter Family Jimmy Rodgers through the great periods of classic and outlaw country to the newest musicians on tour at the time of the book's writing in the late 1990's The book is f

  8. says:

    I've been studying a lot about Americana so when I found this book used it was an easy decision to purchaseAnd what a worthy purchase it was Obviously Ken Burns' Country Music was heavily influenced by this effort in fact given that that series essentially concludes around 1996 about the time this was published you could consider this a substitute or is Country Music the substitute I'll let the reader decideAs for this Dawidoff f

  9. says:

    Dawidoff's portraits dig deep into the souls of many of country music's greats One theme that transcends most of the artist profiles is this notion of how geography indelibly shaped their music whether it was Appalachia the Arkansas delta or the desert climate of Bakersfield Finely layered and a dense 300 page read

  10. says:

    If you enjoyed Ken Burns' PBS documentary on Country Music this book is a good follow up The book was published in 1997 so 15 of the 18 musicians Mr Dawidoff features were still alive and available for interviews Burns by contrast had to address his subjects in the past tense This book is as much about the people their backgrounds and the places they lived as it is about their music