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In the Country of Country: People and Places in American Music

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This is the story of an American treasure that records and evokes the lives of people who often weren't written up in newspapers, but whose experiences of momentous events - the Depression, the Dustbowl, the Second World War - transformed their lives and would be the catalyst for an original American art form: country music. In the Country of Country is an exhilarating transcontinental journey from Maces Springs, Virginia, home of The Carter Family, to Bakersfield, California, where Buck Owens held sway. En route...
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NEW YORK 1997 Hard cover FIRST EDITION STATED, FIRST PRINTING New in new dust jacket. DUST JACKET IS PROTECTED IN MYLAR COVER. 371 p.; 1.29" x 9.58" x 6.53". Includes ... Illustrations. Orders are processed 7 days a week. We value your satisfaction and our feedback! Thanks. == 142 == Read more Show Less

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Overview

This is the story of an American treasure that records and evokes the lives of people who often weren't written up in newspapers, but whose experiences of momentous events - the Depression, the Dustbowl, the Second World War - transformed their lives and would be the catalyst for an original American art form: country music. In the Country of Country is an exhilarating transcontinental journey from Maces Springs, Virginia, home of The Carter Family, to Bakersfield, California, where Buck Owens held sway. En route we visit the backroads, rural hills, and railway crossings where Doc Watson, Sara Carter, Bill Monroe, Ralph Stanley, and Jimmie Rodgers (The Father of Country Music) first learned to play their guitars, fiddles, and mandolins. Nicholas Dawidoff has traveled to the places where country music first emerged and talked to the musicians, writers, and singers who created this deceptively simple-worded, string-driven, melodic music. Here are indelible portraits of Johnny Cash, behind whose black apparel lies a Faustian dilemma between fame and creativity; Merle Haggard, a man as elusive as he is gifted; Patsy Cline, who would happily curl her girlfriends' hair as she curled their ears with her sailor's mouth; and Harlan Howard, the king of country songwriters. Inherent in Dawidoff's chronicle is a critique of contemporary country music - the pop/rock hybrid known as Hot Country that often stands in sharp contrast to the spirit of old-time country music. In the Country of Country is a book full of wonderful stories that together reveal an underappreciated piece of American culture.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In this collection of biographical essays, New Yorker (and New Yorker writer) Dawidoff strikes out for the heartland of his heroes, those singers and songwriters who refined country music into the wittiest popular song form since Tin Pan Alley's heyday and the most expressive since the death of the Delta blues. His profiles sketch many of the greatest living country stars (among them Kitty Wells, Harlan Howard, Doc Watson, Merle Haggard, George Jones, Emmylou Harris and Johnny Cash) and predecessors Jimmy Rodgers, the Carter Family and Ira Louvin. Dawidoff brings to his interviews a balance of reverence and skepticism, but he's at his best as a critic of the music. Of the late Patsy Cline, he writes: "When Cline sang `I've got your memory or has it got me,' in Hank Cochran's `She's Got You,' she called attention to the revelation by slurring the `or.' Cline handled sudden turns in the melody as an expansive sedan does a veer in the road-with such consummate control that you don't really notice the difficulty." And when Dawidoff compares the writers and singers of hillbilly, bluegrass and honky-tonk music with the uninventive, 10-gallon-wearing "hats" who dominate the charts today, country finds an elegist and champion worthy of its golden age. Photos. (Mar.)
School Library Journal
YAA pleasure for country-music fans and a good picture of our popular culture for those who aren't. This collection of biographical essays ranges from Winchester, VA, the birthplace of Patsy Cline, the first female superstar of country music, to Bakersfield, CA, hometown of Buck Owens, host of TV's "Hee Haw" show in the 1970s. Many stops along the way illustrate the influence that the time and place had on such performers as Bill Monroe, father of Blue Grass; Chet Atkins, America's premier guitar player; and the legendary Johnny Cash. The author's obvious love of country music, his in-depth research, and his strong personal opinions all add up to an enjoyable and informative book. Extensive notes on each chapter, a selected general bibliography and discography, as well as a fairly detailed index are included.Pamela B. Rearden, Centreville Regional Library, Fairfax County, VA
Kirkus Reviews
This pleasing collection of short, intimate biographies of performers conveys the essence of the traditional country genre by focusing on icons such as Bill Monroe, Earl Scruggs, Buck Owens, Chet Atkins, George Jones, Johnny Cash, and Patsy Cline.

Dawidoff (The Catcher Was a Spy: The Mysterious Life of Moe Berg, 1994) explores the masters of old-time country music (contemporary country stars such as Garth Brooks are dismissed as "hat acts") from the "Father of Bluegrass Music," Bill Monroe, and his banjo player Earl Scruggs, both of whom cranked up country to breakneck speed, to country contemporaries in the old tradition, such as Emmylou Harris. Though chapters focus on one performer or act, Dawidoff frequently stresses the way in which friendships and collaborations keep country music vital. Many of his subjects provide rich, elucidating vignettes: Cash recalls the time he hit his pet ostrich with a plank and the bird retaliated by breaking three of the singer's ribs; Charlie Louvin, of the famous Louvin Brothers duet, notes that he still habitually moves off to one side of the microphone when he reaches the harmony part, making room for his long-dead brother; and George Jones, once a drinking terror, insists that he now enjoys nothing more than staying home and mowing his lawn. The author's reverence for his subjects is tempered with an astute assessment of their strengths and weaknesses: Johnny Cash, Dawidoff suggests, is a driven performer and self-mythologizer who has sustained a lengthy career by repeatedly repackaging the work produced during an early burst of creativity. Women country stars are well represented here, including Sister Rose Maddox and Sara Carter, among others.

Dawidoff's fine book puts country music in its place: an American phenomenon with deep, heartfelt roots. The collection's thoughtfully notated discography will undoubtedly be used to feed the reader's new or rekindled interest in country music.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780679415671
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 2/19/1997
  • Pages: 372
  • Product dimensions: 6.53 (w) x 9.58 (h) x 1.29 (d)

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