Alanna Nash
May 16, 1997 AT 04:00 AM EDT

In the Country of Country: People and Places in American Music

type
Book
Current Status
In Season
author
Nicholas Dawidoff
genre
Music

We gave it a B+

Country-music journalist Nicholas Dawidoff thinks that the nation’s geography — the drowsy hollers of the Carolinas and Appalachia, the flatlands of Texas, and the oil fields of Bakersfield, Calif. — helped shape old-time sounds. So in a sort of musical Blue Highways, he set out to explore Bill Monroe’s old home place in Rosine, Ky., Patsy Cline’s Shenandoah Valley, and the forgotten Arkansas of Iris DeMent’s youth, and talk with the performers, too, about the melding of their art and origins. Not all the singers are as articulate as their songs. Still, Dawidoff manages to find something new in most of the overly familiar sagas (bluegrass musician Ralph Stanley allowed two hippie bikers to be buried in his family plot). He also writes elegant, thoughtful prose in In the Country of Country: People and Places in American Music, describing Cline’s voice as ”what heartache sounds like from the inside.” B+

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