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Publishers WeeklyStarred Review.
Historian Huber may surprise music fans by tracing the roots of country music and some of the most popular pre-WWII American sounds to city slickers, rather than hayseeds, living in the boomtowns of the American South's Piedmont region. At the turn of the century, textile companies dominated the South, employing thousands and, in some cases, effectively running the small cities that sprang up around them-complete with music programs for workers. What was known derisively as "hillbilly music" found its legs and growing popularity in these mill towns, and most "old time" musicians lived and recorded in cities like Atlanta, Charlotte and Greensboro. Huber traces the growth of the sound through four artists who personified it: Fiddlin' John Carson, a marginally talented but media-savvy violinist; hard-drinking banjo player Charlie Poole; guitarist Dave McCarn, whose luckily-recorded track "Cotton Mill Colic" made his legacy; and the Dixon Brothers, who devoted their songs to tragedy and the decline of Christian morals. Not surprisingly, happy endings are few; bad business deals, alcohol and drug addiction, obscurity and poverty threaten practically all involved. With respect and passion, Huber puts these pioneering artists in well-deserved perspective, gracefully illuminating the birth of an American art form.
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