Walking the Line
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Walking the Line : Country Music Lyricists and American Culture

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Walking the Line: Country Music Lyricists and American Culture examines how country songwriters engage with their nation's religion, literature, and politics. Walking the line requires following strict codes, respecting territories, and, sometimes, yearning to break those bonds. This collection's essays explore how iconic country lyricists such as Johnny Cash, Dolly Parton, and Steve Earle have tested and expanded such boundaries, challenging musical, social, and political conventions, often reevaluating what "country" means in country music.show more

Product details

  • Hardback | 282 pages
  • 157.48 x 220.98 x 27.94mm | 589.67g
  • Lexington Books
  • Lanham, MD, United States
  • English
  • 0739169661
  • 9780739169667

Review quote

This book presents 14 essays, by a variety contributors, about 15 country-music lyricists. The order is roughly chronological, starting with Jimmie Rodgers and ending with Steve Earle. Though excerpts from the subjects' lyrics are quoted, complete lyrics are not provided. Instead, the contributors discuss the lyricists' works in their cultural context. It is common for country artists to perform songs that others wrote for them, but, interestingly, most of these essays concern lyrics that well-known artists such as Hank Williams, Merle Haggard, Loretta Lynn, and Willie Nelson wrote, performed, and popularized themselves. The exception is Cindy Walker, who was extremely successful as a lyricist but little known as a performer. Most of the essayists, including Holmes and Harde, are professors of or specialists in English and history rather than music. It is thus understandable that their discussions focus on topics such as the dominant culture, regional history, and religious views that shaped the lyricists, without delving into matters of musical style. This book is suitable for for anyone interested in American popular music and popular culture. Summing Up: Recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty. CHOICE Songs are the children of songwriters and, though each song carries the songwriter's gene, each song-like each child-is an individual all its own. In this remarkable collection of essays, a group of writers examine songwriters and their songs; how they are born, nurtured and grow from a child to an independent adult. Walking the Line profiles songwriters and their offspring in a way that is intelligent, thoughtful, instructive, heart-felt, deep and long-lasting-just like a great song. -- Don Cusic, Belmont University Like Dolly Parton's 'Coat of Many Colors', these diverse essays are carefully stitched together by Holmes and Harde to form a many-hued portrait of the lyrics and cultural meaning in country music song writing. As the collection clearly demonstrates, the best songwriters, many times social outsiders themselves, are more likely to color outside the cultural lines of their collective audience than to acquiesce to traditional themes and beliefs. An important addition to the collective knowledge of cultural creation and easily the best such collection since Tichi's Reading Country Music. -- George Lewis, University of the Pacificshow more

About Thomas Alan Holmes

Thomas Alan Holmes is a professor of English who teaches American literature in the East Tennessee State University Department of Literature and Language; he also serves as associate dean of arts and sciences. Roxanne Harde is associate dean-research, an associate professor of English, and a McCalla University Professor at the University of Alberta-Augustana Faculty. She studies and teaches American literature and culture.show more

Table of contents

Table of Contents Acknowledgments Credits Introduction Walking the Line: The Dixie Chicks and the Making of Country Lyricists Thomas Alan Holmes Roxanne Harde Chapter 1 "Nobody knows but me": Jimmie Rodgers and the Body Politic Taylor Hagood Chapter 2 Cindy Walker, Lyle Lovett, and the West Thomas Alan Holmes Chapter 3 "Help your brother along the way": Hank Williams and the Humane Tradition Howard Steve Goodson Chapter 4 JC: Johnny Cash and Faith Thomas Alan Holmes Chapter 5 Religious Doctrine in the mid-1970s to 1980s Country Music Concept Albums of Willie Nelson Blase S. Scarnati Chapter 6 Grace to Catch a Falling Soul: Country, Gospel, and Evangelical Populism in the Music of Dottie Rambo Douglas Harrison Chapter 7 "Here's the story of my life; listen and I'll tell it twice": The Appalachian Autobiography of Loretta Lynn Laura Grace Pattillo Chapter 8 "Branded" Man: Merle Haggard's Romance of the Outlier Thomas Alan Holmes Chapter 9 Townes van Zandt: "Now here's what this story's told." Pete Falconer and James Zborowski Chapter 10 Wildness, Eschatology, and Enclosure in the Songs of Townes Van Zandt Michael B. MacDonald Chapter 11 "Where it counts I'm real": The Complexities of Dolly Parton's Feminist Voice Samantha Christensen Chapter 12 "Sin City": Gram Parsons and the "Christ-Haunted South" Clay Motley Chapter 13 Weeping Willows and Long Black Veils: The Country Roots of Rosanne Cash, from Scotland to Tennessee June Skinner Sawyers Chapter 14 "They draft the white trash first 'round here anyway": Steve Earle's American Boys Roxanne Harde Index About the Contributorsshow more

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