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Book Reviews

Wendy Doucette, Book Reviews Editor


Bartenstein, F. (ed.). (2017). Roots music in America: Collected writings of Joe Wilson

Bartenstein, F. (ed). (2017). Lucky Joe's namesake: The extraordinary life and observations of Joe Wilson

Dykeman, W. (2016). Family of earth: A Southern mountain childhood

Feller, D., Coens, T. & Laura-Eve Moss, L-E. (2016). The papers of Andrew Jackson volume X, 1832

Montell, W. L. (2016). Tales from Tennessee lawyers

 

Bartenstein, F. (Ed.). (2017). Roots music in America: Collected writings of Joe Wilson. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press. 290 pages. ISBN 13: 978-1621903154

Joe Wilson was a driving force in the production and promotion of American roots music. As the executive director of the National Council for the Traditional Arts, he organized national and international tours of American traditional music. He wrote about the music and life that he loved in articles, books, and album liner notes. Wilson was the recipient of many awards for his works in the field, including the National Heritage Fellowship, the highest honor given to traditional artists by the National Endowment for the Arts. In 2009, the Library of Congress named him a Living Legend for his contributions in the field. Wilson also created the Blue Ridge Music Center in Galax, Virginia.

Roots Music in America is part of the Charles K. Wolfe Music Series. Wilson traces the history and development of roots music through its performers, instruments, and songs. The articles contained in this book, Roots Music in America, start with history of the American vernacular music and instruments used to play it. The first chapter includes articles on specific songs and how they evolved, some going back a hundred years or more. "Radio and the Blue Ridge" shows how the development of radio broadcasting helped the spread and popularity of the music, creating a larger audience with its reach. "Instruments" has articles on the influence of the guitar, banjo, violin ("The Devil's Box"), and the pedal steel guitar. The other articles cover different types of vernacular music. "Old Time Music" begins with an article about the Hill Billies, the band that named the music. Chapters on bluegrass, modern country, the blues, and cowboy music contain articles and reviews from a variety of sources: magazines, websites, program books, and liner notes. Included among the musicians Wilson writes about are Bill Monroe, Clarence "Tom" Ashley, Doc Watson, Brownie Ford, John Jackson, Grayson and Whitter, and the Stanley Brothers.

Fred Bartenstein, the editor of this book, has spent his life immersed in the bluegrass music scene. As a musician, he has performed and recorded with artists such as John Hartford, Vassar Clements and Frank Wakefield. He has been a composer, producer, radio broadcaster and festival organizer. His has served as editor on Bluegrass Bluesman: Josh Graves, A Memoir and Lucky Joe's Namesake, the Extraordinary Life and Observations of Joe Wilson, another collection of writings by Joe Wilson about his life and the music he loved. Bartenstein currently teaches country and bluegrass music history at the University of Dayton.

Roots Music in America: Collected Writings of Joe Wilson would be good addition for any high school, public, or college library, especially one with a particular interest in music or Southern culture.

Zinia Randles
Library Assistant
James Walker Library
Middle Tennessee State University



Bartenstein, F. (Ed.). (2017). Lucky Joe's namesake: The extraordinary life and observations of Joe Wilson. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press. 215 pages. ISBN 13:978-1621903161

Every so often, a book comes along that exposes the mind to new people and areas of information, and those unfamiliar places and people soon take on the feel of a familiar friend. This book is a fine example of that phenomenon. Whether you are new to the land of roots music or a seasoned fan, a grassroots activist with an interest in the arts, or if you just want to dive into a good book written by a legendary writer with an interesting and varied past, you will not be disappointed. Joe Wilson was a man with one foot in the hills of Tennessee and the other, well, everywhere else. The writings in this book which consist of his own words and musings, exemplify the life of a man who was as ordinary as he was complex.

Edited by Fred Bartenstein, with a foreword written by Barry Bergey, Lucky Joe's Namesake takes the reader on a journey that begins with the history of Wilson's namesake and travels through the time periods and experiences that shaped and were shaped by the man himself. The book is divided into six sections: 1) An Extraordinary Life, a timeline of sorts, tracing the phases of Wilson's life from the Blue Ridge Mountains (1938-1956) to the New River (2004-2015); 2) Trade, Tennessee, snapshots of life in the tiny town of Trade; 3) Civil Rights, showcasing an article titled "Hucksters of Hate--Nazi Style" by W. Edward Harris and Joe's "Alabama Observations" about the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in 1963; 4) Folklore and Folk Festivals, highlighting Wilson's involvement in the folk festival movement and including articles written about Joe; 5) The Crooked Road, a history of the 333-mile stretch of road running through Virginia that connects some of America's most distinctive music communities; and 6) Miscellany, a section title that implies discarded and useless items but belies the gems contained therein. From "Frog Soup and Blowing Up Powder Houses" to "Joe's Gems," this little section tucked away at the end contains vignettes that are a reminder of front porch and courthouse step tales that were once the staples of daily life for rural communities, and for a fortunate few, still are.

Supported with photographs and explanatory notes for context, this book would make a fine addition to any public or academic library collection. Published as a companion volume to Roots Music in America: Collected Writings of Joe Wilson, this book is also appropriate for anyone with an interest in roots music or simply the joy of reading a truly good book.

Ann Manginelli
Reference Librarian
Angelo and Jennette Volpe Library
Tennessee Technological University



Dykeman, W. (2016). Family of earth: A Southern mountain childhood. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press. 177 pages. ISBN 13: 978-1469629148

In the academic world, there are scores of "found" manuscripts; everything from newly-discovered poems of Emily Dickinson to letters written between star-crossed literary lovers to mathematical formulae scribbled on the margins of a cocktail napkin. However, the academic world would not exist without such serendipitous discoveries that add to the length and breadth of the knowledge of a particular subject. The literary world is certainly much richer for the discovery of Wilma Dykeman's long-forgotten manuscript for Family of Earth: A Southern Mountain Childhood. Family of Earth was discovered after Dykeman's death in 2006 by her son, James Stokely III, who edited the manuscript, choosing to keep it as intact as possible.

This modest volume contains within its pages the beautiful juxtaposition of romance and realism wherein Wilma Dykeman (1920-2006) describes the world of her childhood from birth until the sudden death of her father just after she turned fourteen. It is difficult to believe in the age of Snapchat and text messaging that a young woman in her early twenties had such an innate sense of self and of her place in the natural world. While I had some difficulty believing that Dykeman could actually remember her infancy with the level of detail with which she writes, my disbelief was easily suspended. Her writing is, at turns, poignant and poetic and she leaves her reader with a deeper understanding of what it was like to grow up in the mountains of North Carolina during the Depression era.

Wilma Dykeman has contributed greatly to the tapestry of Southern literature, both fiction and non-fiction. As Robert Morgan states in the foreword to Family of Earth, Dykeman "served as an ambassador of history and literature to countless communities, and she was an enthusiastic champion of contemporary writers" (p. xvii). Her love of the natural world is obvious throughout Family of Earth and the memoir gives the reader fascinating insight into Dykeman herself. In many ways, the book is a fine example of American Transcendentalism because Dykeman truly believes in the inherent goodness of people and nature. Many of her previously-published works are greatly informed by that belief.

It was honestly difficult to write a review that does justice to this book. I feel that any writing that I might do about it pales in comparison to the words that Dykeman has bled out onto the page. Anyone who has interest in the history of North Carolina, the Southern mountains, how families who knew how to live off the land survived the Depression, or in Wilma Dykeman's life will appreciate this book. It would make a worthy addition to the local history collection in any library in the Appalachian region.

Heather Duby
Library Director
Sullivan County Public Library System



Feller, D., Coens, T., & Moss, L-E. (2016). The papers of Andrew Jackson volume X, 1832. Knoxville: The University of Tennessee Press. 914 pages. ISBN 13: 978-1621902676

The Papers of Andrew Jackson, Volume X, 1832, is an in-depth, thoroughly organized volume composed of more than four hundred documents from Andrew Jackson's fourth year as the President of the United States. The organizers of this work are a team of editors who have produced nine previous volumes containing Jackson's other papers. This tenth volume is straightforward, presenting letters, documents, and memoranda-- any written papers--written and received during the year 1832 "to, by, or written for Jackson" (p. ix).

The documents are generally in chronological order, providing ease of location within the text. All the papers are presented in full and unaltered by the editors. Every effort has been made by the editors to represent the reproduced works as closely to the originals as possible. The book provides a plethora of Jacksonian-era documents relating to his disagreements with John C. Calhoun, territory expansion in Mexico, and issues relating to his Indian removal policies. The work is interesting in that it provides first-hand accounts of the presidency and issues in America during this time period. The letters fluctuate between the mundane (government officials requesting increases in salary) to the intriguing (Jackson's letter in April to Mr. Anthony Shelby addressing John C. Calhoun's scheming). The work is well-balanced, providing a nice glimpse into this specific period in presidential history.

This book is an excellent resource for researchers and provides a plethora of information in an easy-to-read, accessible, and usable format. Another useful feature of this work is the subject index provided at the end. This title is recommended for researchers, Jacksonian enthusiasts, history lovers, those who enjoy biographies, or simply want to learn more about America, politics, and the presidency in 1832.

Stephanie Bandel-Koroll
Library Assistant II
Center for Popular Music
Middle Tennessee State University



Montell, W. L. (2016). Tales from Tennessee lawyers. Lexington: The University Press of Kentucky. 225 pages. ISBN 13: 978-0813168289

Have you ever wondered what it's like to be a lawyer; you know, a real lawyer, not those Law & Order types you see on television? Lawyers appearing on the large and small screen typically give the audience the distinct impression that the business of lawyering is both glamorous and sophisticated. To be sure, it has its moments, but often, what we think of as the legal profession has little in common with the reality lawyers deal with every day. In Tales from Tennessee Lawyers, readers get a taste of what the practice of law is really like as told by lawyers themselves.

William Lynwood Montell gathered these stories as part of a project to preserve historical aspects of Tennessee's legal profession that the general public, and even practicing attorneys, might be surprised to learn. Yes, there is a difference between a killing and a murder, and no, not every county will give the death penalty despite Tennessee being a state that allows capital punishment.

Originally published in 2005 and subsequently released in paperback in 2016 by The University Press of Kentucky, this title paints vivid pictures, both good and bad, of clients and cases. Montell, who is an oral historian and retired professor at Western Kentucky University, has published a number of titles on local history in Tennessee and Kentucky, including the predecessor to this work, Tales from Kentucky Lawyers. Montell identified age, gender, and location as critical parameters for selecting storytellers for the project, looking for older lawyers from smaller practices who would best be able to discuss how the legal practice has changed over the years. Montell's position is that some of the best storytellers are lawyers, and these stories are so engaging that this title should appeal to a general audience as well. He chose to arrange the book by story type, with seventeen categories, including Courtroom Blunders, Illegal Sales, Domestic Relations, and Animals in Court, to name a few.

This title is more than outstanding documentation of what professional life looks like for local Tennessee lawyers; it's a great read, full of colorful characters and pretty juicy stories. It's the kind of book that's hard not to talk about. There's a clear academic appeal, especially for law faculty due to the subject matter alone. This title is highly recommended for all library types, as it would fit well into any size collection for both scholarly and leisurely readers alike.

Cara Huwieler
Collections Consultant
ProQuest




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