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Overview

An insightful and wide-ranging look at one of America’s most popular genres of music, Walking the Line: Country Music Lyricists and American Culture examines how country songwriters engage with their nation’s religion, literature, and politics. Country fans have long encountered the concept of walking the line, from Johnny Cash’s “I Walk the Line” to Waylon Jennings’s “Only Daddy That’ll Walk the Line.” Walking the line requires following strict codes, respecting territories, and, sometimes, recognizing that only the slightest boundary separates conflicting allegiances. However, even as the term acknowledges control, it suggests rebellion, the consideration of what lies on the other side of the line, and perhaps the desire to violate that code. For lyricists, the line presents a moment of expression, an opportunity to relate an idea, image, or emotion. These lines represent boundaries of their kind as well, but as the chapters in this volume indicate, some of the more successful country lyricists have tested and expanded the boundaries as they have challenged musical, social, and political conventions, often reevaluating what “country” means in country music. From Jimmie Rodgers’s redefinitions of democracy, to revisions of Southern Christianity by Hank Williams and Willie Nelson, to feminist retellings by Loretta Lynn and Dolly Parton to masculine reconstructions by Merle Haggard and Cindy Walker, to Steve Earle’s reworking of American ideologies, this collection examines how country lyricists walk the line. In weighing the influence of the lyricists’ accomplishments, the contributing authors walk the line in turn, exploring iconic country lyrics that have tested and expanded boundaries, challenged musical, social, and political conventions, and reevaluated what “country” means in country music.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780739169667
Publisher: Lexington Books
Publication date: 10/24/2013
Pages: 282
Product dimensions: 6.30(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Thomas Alan Holmes is a professor of English who teaches American literature in the East Tennessee State University Department of Literature and Language; he also serves as associate dean of arts and sciences.

Roxanne Harde is associate dean—research, an associate professor of English, and a McCalla University Professor at the University of Alberta—Augustana Faculty. She studies and teaches American literature and culture.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents
Acknowledgments
Credits

Introduction
Walking the Line: The Dixie Chicks and the Making of Country Lyricists
Thomas Alan Holmes
Roxanne Harde

Chapter 1
“Nobody knows but me”: Jimmie Rodgers and the Body Politic
Taylor Hagood

Chapter 2
Cindy Walker, Lyle Lovett, and the West
Thomas Alan Holmes

Chapter 3
“Help your brother along the way”: Hank Williams and the Humane Tradition
Howard Steve Goodson

Chapter 4
JC: Johnny Cash and Faith
Thomas Alan Holmes

Chapter 5
Religious Doctrine in the mid-1970s to 1980s Country Music Concept Albums of Willie Nelson
Blase S. Scarnati

Chapter 6
Grace to Catch a Falling Soul: Country, Gospel, and Evangelical Populism in the Music of Dottie Rambo
Douglas Harrison

Chapter 7
“Here’s the story of my life; listen and I’ll tell it twice”: The Appalachian Autobiography of Loretta Lynn
Laura Grace Pattillo

Chapter 8
“Branded” Man: Merle Haggard’s Romance of the Outlier
Thomas Alan Holmes

Chapter 9
Townes van Zandt: “Now here’s what this story’s told.”
Pete Falconer and James Zborowski

Chapter 10
Wildness, Eschatology, and Enclosure in the Songs of Townes Van Zandt
Michael B. MacDonald

Chapter 11
“Where it counts I’m real”: The Complexities of Dolly Parton’s Feminist Voice
Samantha Christensen

Chapter 12
“Sin City”: Gram Parsons and the “Christ-Haunted South”
Clay Motley

Chapter 13
Weeping Willows and Long Black Veils: The Country Roots of Rosanne Cash, from Scotland to Tennessee
June Skinner Sawyers

Chapter 14
“They draft the white trash first ‘round here anyway”: Steve Earle’s American Boys
Roxanne Harde

Index
About the Contributors

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