Country Music Annual 2002
This third annual collection of new studies in country music is a book that any true country music lover would want in their collection. While a few of the articles might be beneficial only for those intent on archiving country music history, overall it is filled with details that devoted fans will find intriguing and entertaining.
While Country Music Annual 2002 may conjure up images of a book devoted to writing about current music, instead this is a collection of studies that spans the history of country music from the 1920s to the present. It covers everything from the legendary — if nearly forgotten — Australian country singer Tex Morton to the Oklahoma divas who serve as “honky tonk angels and rockabilly queens.”
Any 2002 music studies collection worth its salt would include a piece dealing with the O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack. This collection takes the high road; instead of recycled talk about the phenomenal success of the album, John Garst conducts a study that traces that album’s centerpiece, “Man Of Constant Sorrow”, from its probable origins in the early 1800s (and rhythmical antecedents that go back to the 1700s) to its most popular recording by the Soggy Bottom Boys (a.k.a. Dan Tyminski et al.). Every known version of the song is offered with careful consideration, complete with charts offering pitch vs. syllable comparisons. This is the kind of music study that is a dream come true for any musicologist, amateur or otherwise.
Jimmie N. Rogers’ look at the career of Conway Twitty poses a bold question — “Just why was Conway so popular, anyway?” — and he manages to answer it with more than one reliable theory. Richard D. Smith discusses his own award-winning, wonderful biography of Bill Monroe (Can’t You Hear Me Calling), and Charles Wolfe explores the 75th anniversary of the Bristol Sessions by examining the national and regional events that commemorated it. Another study looks at royalties and goes so far as to include rows of figures and some very dull reading, beneficial only for someone who is either about to sign on the dotted line of a music contract or fanatically obsessed with the machinery of the industry.
Other studies look at WPAQ, the Mt. Airy, North Carolina, station known for playing bluegrass and old-time music (read: not giving into fads) since 1948; the way country songs of the ’60s affected politics (and vice-versa); and a technical yet informative piece about “the selling sound of country music,” which looks at the influence of class and culture on the marketing of the country music form over the years.
One of the more entertaining pieces is Renee Dechert and George Lewis’s “subcultural analysis” of the Drive-by Truckers and the Redneck underground. The writers decide that the band “isn’t exploiting the redneck stereotype. Instead they’re calling attention to the socio-economic issues it often obscures.” Dechert and Lewis go on to fully prove their theory in an informative piece that manages to throw in everything from Cletus T. Judd to “Hee Haw” to David Lee Murphy (identified as “redneck chic”).
There’s a bit of everything for the devoted country music fan in this slim, attractive volume that has been carefully collected by Wolfe, the author of A Good Natured Riot: The Birth Of The Grand Ole Opry, and Akenson, the founder of the International Country Music Conference.