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Book Review: “Country Music” by Richard Carlin

January 7, 2009

5 Stars

This past Christmas I was surprised by recieving a book written by music enthusiast Richard Carlin. The book was titled Country Music: The People Places, and Moments That Shaped the Country Sound. After skimming through it I was impressed by the amount of information this book had to offer. Published in 2006, it fully spans up to that point in the country world, and I mean fully.

The book begins with the Civil War era in the 1800’s and never looks back. From the first guitar shop ever made in Nov. 6, 1833 by a man named Christian Fredrick Martin to the induction of Sugarland into the country music world (still a trio at the time of publication), this book doesn’t give an inch or settle for anything less than a full explanation of the history of the genre. Anything and everything you would ever want to know about the history of country, from the evolution of its sound to the most popular instruments and even to Hall of Fame inductees and some of the lesser known marvels that you never hear is in this book.

Have you ever wanted to know how the cowboy image fused with country music? Or have you ever wondered who the first cowboy singer was? Perhaps you want to explore the history of the fiddle or the banjo in country music because the guitar is just too common. This book explores every detail you could want. Before reading this I never knew about the work of the Bowman Brothers, two of the most significant fiddle players in the history of the genre who together could make Charlie Daniels look like a rookie. I also never knew that the big three instruments in the genre are the fiddle, banjo and guitar or that the first cowboy song collection was published in 1910 by John Avery Lomax. This is what this book has to offer. It may not be the most helpful if someone asks who was #1 and when or what songs was sung by who, but it is definitely an essential for the country music historian.

However don’t count out the songs and the music as playing a part in this history book of one of the most popular genres to ever exist. Throughout the book, profiles of both songs and artists are added in depending on the era to help define the transformation of the age or the important aspects that changed the music at that point. You can explore anyone from Fiddlin’ John Carson to Rascal Flatts or songs ranging from “Home On The Range” to “Honkey Tonk Badnonkadonk” and how these songs effected the genre and changed it forever in the eyes of both fans and the overall music world. It’s amazing how in depth and selective this book is, without being too boring or too lacking of the best information Carlin had to offer.

It’s awe inspiring to examine the history of the genre and how wide spread it really is. In today’s world, most people only talk about Hank, Willie, George, Johnny, Dolly, Loretta, etc. This book goes much farther, exploring smaller names and the smallest details of what made country music what it is today both as a genre and as a way of life. I strongly recommend this book to anyone who has any respect for the music or wants to learn a little bit more about it. I guarantee that even the most knowledgeable modern fan would discover quite a few things in this book that they didn’t already know that would amaze them. Carlin provides extensively researched and well organized material along with masterful and beautiful photography provided by Raeanne Rubenstein which makes for not only a very informal book, but a well presented and enjoyable presentation of the genre to the world.

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