Sing Me Back Home: Love, Death, and Country Music

Sing Me Back Home: Love, Death, and Country Music

Country musics giants all strode the earth in those years: Hank Williams and Johnny Cash, George Jones and Merle Haggard, Loretta Lynn and Tammy Wynette.

And many of the standards that still define country were recorded then: Folsom Prison Blues, Your Cheatin Heart, Mama Tried, Stand by Your Man, and Coal Miners Daughter.In Sing Me Back Home, Dana Jennings pushes past the iconic voices and images to get at what classic country music truly means to us today.

His people lived their lives by country music.

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I'm not giving Sing Me Back Home 5 stars because I think everyone should read it. While analyzing the grand themes of country music--death, family, religion, drinking, prison, hell-raising--Jennings draws upon the characters of his family and puts them alongside insightful analysis of the country records and trends of the time. It's the pause where every American woman was stuck in 1962, the pause that gave rise to feminists like Betty Friedan and Gloria Steinem." Jennings also finds the sweet spot between entertainment and significance as he goes beyond the surface of the songs to discover the misery underlying pretty much everything in country music and country living. Goode" are country songs, according to Dana Jennings.

At least the songs were discussed a little. That last was annoying the first time and did not improve with repetition.

He captures a slice of indigenous American culture that--if it even exists in some form today--is no doubt far less dramatic and interesting now that several big takeovers by the iron tyrant of corporate hegemony and the grip of reality television's tentacles have knocked and squeezed far too much of the piss and vinegar out of the generational heirs of the doomed yet at times noble folks who listened to (and made) this music between the '50s and '70s in this here United States. Jennings, who writes these memories as a prodigal son as much "escaped from" as "returned to" this world, would no doubt agree with (but seems to tread only lightly on) the points that poverty sucks, domestic violence is criminal and exuberant if not random adultery is not all that healthy for family life. Sometimes his prose moves from a vignette from his childhood to the story of a song without the kind of connective tissue or transitional thought that could have made the book truly great rather than really good.

I would say this tells the male perspective of lottta lynns coal miners daughter or a Dolly Parton story without the feminine voice and without the God. I have met each character in the book and as a born and bred country music person my life is a song everyday, all day long.

This book is as much an appreciation of country music as it is a memoir. Jennings writes in an odd combination of Yankee dialect, lyrical descriptions of nature, journalistic singer-songwriter bios, and crude language describing rough lives. Somehow it all works, and though this book had its imperfections, I had a hard time putting it down.

I really enjoyed this book, a vehicle for the author to present a memoir of his hard-scrabble upbringing in the context of the country music of the 1940-1980 period, primarily focusing on music that started out as "hillbilly records" (the poor-white "class records" that paralleled the blues and soul "race records" in the eyes of corporate recording executives) that told the stories of lives forgotten by prosperity and progress.

But these stories make the country records on my grandparents' turntable make sense to me in a way they didn't when I was a 12-year-old listening to Culture Club and Duran Duran. If you like hearing about the functional & dysfunctional things that make oldtime country music country, you will like this. A major theme is that the country life existed in rural New Hampshire and his extended families lives right out of a country song.

  • English

  • Music

  • Rating: 3.62
  • Pages: 272
  • Publish Date: May 27th 2008 by Faber & Faber
  • Isbn10: 0865479607
  • Isbn13: 9780865479609