Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Review: 'Rockabilly: The Twang Heard ‘Round the World'

So stylish and vibrant and graphic, how has Rockabilly not been the subject of some sort of illustrated history until now? I don’t know, Daddy-O, but fans will be pleased that one has finally arrived, and it ain’t just pretty pictures. I’ve read several of Voyageur Press’ coffee-table Rock & Roll compendiums, and editor Michael Dregni’s Rockabilly: The Twang Heard ‘Round the World is the one that gets it the rightest. Beautifully written by the likes of Greil Marcus, Craig Morrison, David McGee, and others, this book covers the various corners of that funky fusion of C&W and R&R with greater breadth and insight than one might expect from an illustrated history. Nice biographies of luminaries including Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash, and Billy Riley, are joined by explorations of lesser known innovators and decisive moments in the genre’s evolution—often with the help of the folks who made them happen. McGee provides a fascinating history of the creation of “Blue Suede Shoes”. Paul Burlison explains how he got that nasty distortion on “The Train Kept A-Rollin’” in an interview from 1982. Marcus compares Elvis’s faux arrogance to Buddy Holly’s wholly convincing self doubt and speculates winsomely on how the latter’s career may have played out had the music never died. Rockabilly also includes looks at the fashions, guitars, amps, and recording techniques that made the genre come alive, as well as the latter day rockers (Sleepy LaBeef, The Stray Cats, The Cramps, etc.) who gave it life after the ‘50s. Numerous lengthy interviews (Ronnie Hawkins! Wanda Jackson! Sonny Burgess!), oodles of great photos, and a very amusing afterward courtesy of Luc Sante round out the book.

Snag Rockabilly: The Twang Heard ‘Round the World at Amazon.com here, cats and kittens.
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