Down to the River: Portraits of Iowa Musicians

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In 1987 photographer Sandra Dyas moved to Iowa City and began documenting the area’s vibrant live music scene, with its distinctive combination of folk, blues, roots/Americana, and rock sounds. The sixty photos in Down to the River capture her twenty years of photographing live music venues and shooting portraits of musicians in and around the city, resulting in a collection of images as compassionate and honest as the music itself.

Dyas’s photographs present both the sweaty intensity of live performances and the more contemplative moments of individual portraits. They are complemented by Chris Offutt’s empathetic essay, which also encapsulates the experience of connecting with a new home through its music. A companion CD with eighteen tracks by Iowa’s finest singer/songwriters, including Dave Moore, Greg Brown, Bo Ramsey, David Zollo, and Pieta Brown, add up to an unmatched perspective on Iowa music and musicians.

CD Tracks
1.     Iowa Crawl, Joe Price
2.     Poor Back Slider, Greg Brown
3.     Parnell, David Zollo
4.     #807, Pieta Brown
5.     Wheels of Steel, Radoslav Lorkovic
6.     Down to the River, Dave Moore
7.     Lucy and Andy Drive to Arkansas, Kevin Gordon
8.     Chuck Brown, Mike and Amy Finders
9.    Nobody But You, Joe Price
10.     Earleton, BeJae Fleming
11.     Ceremonial Child, High and Lonesome
12.     Sidetrack Lounge, Bo Ramsey
13.     On the Edge, Pieta Brown
14.     One Wrong Turn, Greg Brown
15.     Not in Iowa, Kelly Pardekooper
16.     Living in a Cornfield, Bo Ramsey
17.     ’57 Chevy, Tom Jessen’s Dimestore Outfit
18.     Roll on John, the Pines

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
This artfully conceived multimedia package enables you to see, hear, and read about talented Iowa musicians. Photographer Sandy Dyas sets the stage with informal portraits of the singer/songwriters and pictures that reveal the down-home flavor of the Hawkeye State music scene. Chris Offutt adds an informal take on Iowa's contribution to music. And then the pièce de résistance: an audio CD that contains 18 tracks by the state's finest singers and songwriters.
From the Publisher
"From the melancholy genius of Bix Beiderbecke to the prairie visionary poetry of songwriter Greg Brown, Iowa has produced more than its fair share of great musicians and songwriters. Photgrapher Sandy Dyas has captured the rough and sweet uniqueness of many recent Iowa artists in beautiful images that make you want to dance in a hot bar on a summer evening while singing along with their every word. Even though this is not an all-inclusive, academic history of Iowa musicians and songwriters, Sandy's honest photographs reveal as much about the artists as any hisorical/biographical book could"-Dave Alvin

“These photographs bring to life a world very dear to me, through the eyes of a photographer whose love of that world is palpable on the page. You can hear the songs in these photos: in the stage lights, in the landscapes and barscapes, and in the faces of the people who make my favorite music in the world. I will read and reread this book with gratitude; it’s a vehicle—a hard-driven, hard-rusted, hard-loved farm truck!—driving me right into the music, and there’s nowhere I’d rather be.”—Thisbe Nissen, author Out of the Girls' Room and into the Night

“Sandra Dyas’s photos capture Iowa’s middle landscape, the one where human habitation has made a place for itself between the mechanization of the prairie and the collapse of the family farm. This is the Iowa that gets lived in and sung about. You might catch a glimpse of it at deep twilight, on some nameless county road, where you’ll find a guitar picker or fiddler or steel player: a mere mote on a blanket of soybeans and corn. Like every farmer or elevator operator or grain dealer who’s at home in the idea of moving on, Iowa’s musicians put down roots where they are. You really can’t miss the resemblance in these photos—wanderers who came to make a life and like it or not succeeded at it.” --Robert Cantwell

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780877459972
  • Publisher: University of Iowa Press
  • Publication date: 6/1/2007
  • Series: Bur Oak Book Series
  • Edition description: 1
  • Pages: 94
  • Sales rank: 1,463,032
  • Product dimensions: 8.00 (w) x 10.00 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Sandra Dyas received her MFA in intermedia and video art from the University of Iowa in 1998; she teaches photography at Cornell College and has a thriving freelance photography business. Her photographs have been published on and in numerous CDs, websites, and magazines including No Depression, Vogue, Acoustic Guitar, and the New York Times.

Chris Offutt is the author of Kentucky Straight, Out of the Woods, The Good Brother, The Same River Twice, and No Heroes. His stories and essays have been published in Esquire, GQ, the New York Times, Best American Short Stories, and Best Stories of the South.

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Table of Contents

Iowa Waltz   Chris Offutt     1
Song and Dance     7
Portraits of Iowa Musicians     11
Photographer's Note     73
Acknowledgments     77
CD Tracks and Credits     79
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