Lee David Zimmerman
Americana Music: Voices, Visionaries & Pioneers of an Honest Sound
Texas A&M University Press (Hardcover)
4 out of 5 Stars
Longtime critic Lee Zimmerman has collected an impressive cross-section of interviews chronicling the rise of Americana music in the United States, Canada and abroad. His knowledge and enthusiasm for his subject shines clean throughout the book, and although it’s like pulling teeth to get good quotes from some of the legends, anyone even remotely interested in how bluegrass and country-rock morphed into what is now known as Americana music would benefit from this scholarly microscope dissecting its roots.
More importantly, Zimmerman is smart enough to look forward, not just back. His interviews with Derek Trucks, The Avett Brothers, The Mavericks, Chris Isaak, John Oates, Jay Farrar, Shawn Colvin and a host of other luminaries paints an optimistic picture of this genre moving forward.
Ireland, England, Canada and Australia get their due and there’s even a handy-dandy list of “Essential Albums That Trace The Transition” from 1951 Hank Williams to 1995 Wilco. Zimmerman’s prose is avuncular, like a kindly college professor who’s willing to stay after class and patiently explain the particulars. Plus, as a direct result of reading this book, I now really want to hear such under-the-radar artists like Jenn Grant, The Sadies and Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band. That, right there, is reason enough to have this one on my bookshelf. Ultimately, that’s the best thing you can say about any book. Zimmerman has turned me on to new bands, and made me want to go back and listen to Ralph Stanley, The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and Poco, too.