Christmas is coming, and if you’re a music fan, you’ll want to drop a few hints to Santa. Here are seven books you’ll definitely want in your stocking:
What a sumptuous feast of a book this is. Coffee table sized, lavishly illustrated, and utterly engaging, it oozes quality from the standard of the writing to the beautiful quality of paper. With Corcoran’s engaging stories highlighting the careers and contributions of a wide variety of pioneering Texas musicians, you begin to realize how important and formative Texas is for American music. Top of your Christmas list. Read our review. Buy it here.
Memories of Robert Johnson from Annye Anderson, Johnson’s almost sister, which introduce us to the Robert Johnson we never knew. A wonderful evocation of a time and place. For any music fan, and particularly if you’re a blues fan, this book is a must-read.
Buy it here.
Blues harp master and professor of the blues, Gussow, asks an important question of every blues fan – who do the blues belong to? Expertly and sensitively written by a man who has spent his musical career learning from and playing with black musicians.
Ian Zack’s biography of Odetta is masterful, as he charts the life of this seminal cultural figure who helped spark the folk revival and became a vital part of the protest movements of the 1950s and 60s. She was on the front line of the struggle for equality in America, combatting racism through her music and actions. An important book and a great read. Full review to come.
Check out also Ian Zack’s excellent biography of Rev. Gary Davis, Say No to the Devil. Here’s our review.
Freeman Vines, born in 1942 in Greene County in North Carolina is the focus of a quite remarkable book, written by Zoe Van Buren and featuring a stunning set of photographs of Vines, his guitars and his environment by Timothy Duffy. The focus of the book is on one particular aspect of Vines’s life – his crafting of guitars from a tree near where he lived that had been used for lynching. Don’t miss the companion music album. Read our interview with Freeman Vines. Buy it here.
Another beautifully illustrated book (by E.B. Lewis), and cleverly written by Golio, guaranteed to engage the interest of small children. That’s no small feat, given the harshness of Willie Johnson’s life, a man blinded as a child, who lived in poverty and died penniless in the ruins of his burnt-down home. For parents who’d like their children to encounter something of America’s musical heritage, this, really is a must-buy. Highly recommended. Read our review. Buy it here.
It’s been out for a while, but no matter – it’s mine and I’m gonna recommend it! “The Gospel According to the Blues is at once a primer in American music, culture, and race and religious history. Gary Burnett moves deftly from lyrics to theory and back again, from Blind Lemon Jefferson to the insights of contemporary scholarship. Highly readable, thoroughly researched, and with deep respect for the art form on every page. For best results, read with scratchy vinyl recordings of the masters as accompaniment.” An interview with the author and more details here.