My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I went into this looking for something detailing the roots of Rock: a book about the early, dusty years of 78 RPM records and the faceless artists contained therein. It’s not quite that, but Country: The Twisted Roots of Rock and Roll is an interesting read with a lot of information and colour.
In a series of alternating chapters, Tosches details the early years of blues and country music. He traces the arc of steel guitars, it’s common origin with blues and country and how it split not just into two styles, but two distinct instruments. He looks at the dark, dirty early country sides and contrasts them to the glitter-clean country music of Nashvill c. mid 1970s. He traces the arc of artists who’ve vanished like Emmitt Miller, those who rose to stardom, like Hank Williams, and those consumed by darkness like Spade Cooley.
At times, he bogs the narrative down in details, tracing a song not only through artists but though labels and catalogue numbers. A product, perhaps, of it’s time, but it happens enough I found myself skipping through the pages. And compared to his best work – Hellfire: The Jerry Lee Lewis Story – the prose lacks the same punch. At it’s best, it’s an interesting read, but I can see it being a little too detailed for some.