Thursday, February 15, 2007

Will the Circle Be Unbroken: Country Music in America

I continue my study of country music with Will the Circle Be Unbroken: Country Music in America, a big, beautiful book with the stamp of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. I am now well prepared for my trip to Nashville.

It is a commitment to read Will the Circle Be Unbroken, as there are 360 oversized pages full of text, colorful photos, and sidebars focusing on the musical stars and their hit songs. Reading it takes you on a long journey through the history of the musical genre, from the hillbilly music of Appalachia, the gospel music of the South, and cowboy songs of western expansion, through minstrel shows and vaudeville, to the rise of recording and radio, and ending with modern country music.

Most people will use Will the Circle Be Unbroken as a reference book. Each chapter focuses on a time period or a musical root, such as cowboy music or bluegrass. Special pages show the sheet music, guitars, and clothes of the country music stars. Using the detailed index, students can find information on singers, songwriters, songs, radio stations, barn dance programs, and American cities.

I recognized some of the album covers, especially Gunfighter Ballads and Trail Songs by Marty Robbins, Sentimentally Yours by Patsy Cline, and A Touch of Velvet by Jim Reeves. There were a lot of these records around the town where I grew up.

Being a sponsored publication by the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, the book is mostly positive in tone. The authors do, however, describe drug and alcohol abuse, broken marriages, and bitter rivalries in the field. The outrage of many in Nashville when outsiders like Olivia Newton-John or John Denver won awards is noted. A strongly-worded criticism of the music business by Rosanne Cash is included in the back of the book.

I took lots of notes as I read and am placing some reserves on CDs. I want to listen to Bill Monroe, Flatt & Scruggs, Vince Gill, and Emmylou Harris.

Will the Circle Be Unbroken should be in most public library collections.

Will the Circle Be Unbroken: Country Music in America. New York: DK Publishing, 2006. ISBN 0756623529


SFP said...

Listen to Ralph Stanley, Dwight Yoakam and Patty Loveless, too, if you can. . .

Dan Trabue said...

And if you want to venture into new material (that sounds old), check out Old Crow Medicine Show. The whole Old Time String Band sound seems to be making a huge (relatively) comeback.