The Reading Room

Writing about writing about music.

Henry writes about music and music books for ND, The Bluegrass Situation, Country Standard Time, Publishers Weekly, and more.

The Reading Room

Writing about writing about music.

Henry writes about music and music books for ND, The Bluegrass Situation, Country Standard Time, Publishers Weekly, and more.

May a Thousand New Books Bloom

I always like your postings Henry and here's another good one with an eclectic list of new books. I have some questions/comments on some of them. Is the writer Peter Cooper the same Peter Cooper who is an excellent singer-songwriter and musician? Jim Dickinson, who you identify as a producer, was also a pianist and songwriter who recorded with Dylan as well as the others you mentioned. Jimmy Buffett is, in my opinion, a very underrated songwriter. He seems to be admired these days as an entrepreneur more than anything else but his songwriting wasn't all odes to hedonism like he seems to be perceived for he wrote some very philosophical songs too with some great albums in his later work besides those classic early albums.

I was surprised your last posting about black literature in which music is an important ingredient got no comments besides my own. It makes me think the criticism that fans of Americana are just a bunch of honkies is probably true. But that's no one's fault really--just a difference in taste. For instance I respect rap and hip-hop as important musical expressions but just don't care for it myself although plenty of, mostly young, whites do. But I sure do love the blues and jazz which began as predominantly black expressions before we whites grew to appreciate their greatness.

That is the same Peter Cooper Dennis...I'm going to see him Saturday withe Eric Brace and the fantastic picker Thomm Jutz...can't wait...Mr. Cooper is indeed a journalist as well (so is Brace for that matter, he was a music journalist for the Washington Post for several years...and  Cooper is senior Music Writer for "The Tennessean" and lectures about country music at Vanderbilt University)...He's a wonderful writer and historian...the liner notes of his own records are wonderful as you know...Depot Light, the record he made of Eric Taylor songs would be worth the price for the liner notes alone, although the record is quite honestly one of the finest I've heard, unbelievable songs beautifully played (and Thomm Jutz is all over that one)...would have easily been top 2 or 3 in 2015 best of list had I heard it in the year of it's release...anything that guy writes is likely well worth the time...

 I missed Henry's last post I guess...I don't remember reading anything about Black Music Literature...glad you mentioned it Dennis...I will have to remedy that..."Blues People" by Leroi Jones (or Amiri Baraka) is a great book...Nelson George's "The Death of Rhythm and Blues" too... 

Yes Jim, I knew Peter Cooper was a journalist too so I was surprised in this posting that it didn't mention he was a musician also so thought it possible it was a different Peter Cooper.

Those two books of Black Music Literature that you mentioned--are they novels? I ask because, if I recall correctly, that's what Henry was asking for and not non-fiction music books.

I just went back to that other posting and see that I may be mistaken since he writes about "Blues People" and says it's an essay. But most of the books he lists at the end of the posting are novels--at least the ones I've heard of.

Neither of the books I mention are novels...I didn't read Henry's column before I posted that either, but I see you are correct, he was asking for novels...

Talked to Peter Cooper about his book too Saturday...should be fun...he helped Todd Snider pull the stories together in his book (which is a truly enjoyable  and deeper than you might think read...Snider took the stoner road to find the elemental truths about life), and this is similar...untold behind the scenes stories about the Nashville scene from an insider perspective...Peter Guralnick wrote the foreword...

The concert was wonderful...wish you could've been there...

This column does a great service to fans, artists and publishers! My Barnes & Noble does a good job but it is wonderful to know that I need to be on the lookout for the Jim Dickinson autobiography, coming in April. Thank you!

One more by Bill Malone (although published late last year, should be everyone's to-read list) - Bill Clifton: America's Bluegrass Ambassador to the World (University of Illinois Press) "The most atypical of bluegrass artists, Bill Clifton has enjoyed a long career as a recording artist, performer, and champion of old-time music. Bill C. Malone pens the story of Clifton's eclectic life and influential career. Born into a prominent Maryland family, Clifton connected with old-time music as a boy. Clifton made records around earning a Master's degree, fifteen years in the British folk scene, and stints in the Peace Corps and Marines. Yet that was just the beginning. Closely allied with the Carter Family, Woody Guthrie, Mike Seeger, and others, Clifton altered our very perceptions of the music--organizing one of the first outdoor bluegrass festivals, publishing a book of folk and gospel standards that became a cornerstone of the folk revival, and introducing both traditional and progressive bluegrass around the world. As Malone shows, Clifton clothed the music of working-class people in the vestments of romance, celebrating the log cabin as a refuge from modernism that rang with the timeless music of Appalachia. An entertaining account by an eminent music historian, Bill Clifton clarifies the myths and illuminates the paradoxes of an amazing musical life."