Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Book No. 22: Country: The Twisted Roots of Rock & Roll by Nick Tosches

I read two Tosches books ten years ago - Hellfire, about Jerry Lee Lewis, and Dino, about Dean Martin. Both were freakin' brilliant. Then I read a fiction book, Cut Numbers, that was awful. I haven't read any Tosches since, but I went to the library to get Where Dead Voices Gather recently. They didn't have it, so I got this one instead.

It's pretty clearly Tosches' first book. The arguments don't hang together so much as they sit next to each other, patiently waiting for the former to peter out. I mean, as a collection of facts and anecdotes, it's interesting, but as a narrative or position paper, it's, well, a collection of facts and anecdotes.

I'm still interested in WDVG, and I've been thinking a bit about re-reading Hellfire and Dino, so I'm not giving up on Mr. Tosches. Country inspired me to play my Emmett Miller disc for the first time in a few years, which is never a bad thing (although the cover picture of Miller in blackface is embarrassing enough that I never, ever let that disc leave the house). Miller very clearly influenced Jimmy Rodgers, Bob Wills, and Hank Williams, and you can hear what exactly each artist took from his style - the smooth delivery interrupted by occasional feral yowls and the seamless blend of country, jazz, and blues. Great stuff, and I'm sure that Tosches is directly responsible for Miller's legacy remaining unforgotten. Hopefully, WDVG, which deals with similar subject matter, will far surpass this book.

3 comments:

dutcher 8:58 PM, August 04, 2005  

Where Dead Voices Gather is only sometimes great, and more often frustrating. The answer to the question "Can you do too much obsessive research?"

I'd suggest "The Devil and Sonny Liston" in its place.

Alyssa 9:09 AM, August 05, 2005  

After you finish Goats, you should check out Stiff by Mary Roach. It's much more engaging than I expected - and I nearly fell out of my subway seat when I ran across a few paragraphs about General Stubblebine! Small world.

Hayden Childs 11:33 AM, August 05, 2005  

Well, crud, Dutcher. WDVG is already waiting for me at my friendly local library branch. I'll add The Devil & Sonny Liston to my list, though.

And thanks, Alyssa! I've added Stiff to my list, too.

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