Wrong's What I Do Best: Hard Country Music and Contemporary Culture
With chapters on Hank Williams Sr. and Jr., Merle Haggard, George Jones, David Allan Coe, Buck Owens, Dwight Yoakam, and the Outlaw Movement, this book is written in a jargon-free, engaging style that will interest both academic as well as general readers.
"A professor of English (University of Memphis) and obvious country music fanatic, Ching offers a study of the basis and social implications of 'hard country.' She begins by defining her subject as the Southern twang of angry alienation, hard times, and incurable desolation in contrast to the patriotism, nostalgia, and pop romance of mainstream country. She examines the desolate male fatalism of such stars as George Jones, Merle Haggard, and David Allen Coe, then turns to the roots of hard country with pioneer Hank Williams and his son, Hank Jr..... She finishes with the rock-tinged,Hank Williams-obsessed outlaw country of the 1970s, discussing such singers as Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings, and hints at the uncertain future of the music. Well organized, well researched, and largely free of academic jargon, the book conveys Ching's enthusiasm for the hard country sound."―Library Journal"Barbara Ching never killed a man in Reno just to watch him die, but there's something about the sentiment behind Johnny Cash's claim that she can identify with. It's not like she's an ex-con, she says, or a recovering alcoholic.She teaches English at the University of Memphis, she's a mom, she's married to an opera composer.But when it comes to the music that matters to her, only the most down-and-out country makes sense deep inside"―The Chronicle of Higher Education"Illustrate[s] the 'almost existential' differences between hard and pop country....The more prevalent the Brooksian, hook-laden, lyrically unchallenging brand of country becomes, Ching notes...the farther hard country drifts from the mainstream, so much so that it now stands as as an angry, countercultural critique of prevailing values. [Ching presents a] plainspoken appreciation for the merits of the hard-country genre."―Kirkus Reviews"Ching...argues that this feisty, mostly male genreis overdue for cultural analysis, claiming that its focus is 'far wider than barnyards and bars' and that its 'volatile blend of anger, irony, and burlesque abjection'―first cooked up by [Hank] Williams―warrants serious study in the postmodern age."―The New Yorker"Think Susan Sontag declaiming on the spiritual thread connecting Buck Owens and Dwight Yoakam: that's Ching. Besides deconstructing the likes of Merle Haggard and getting into highfalutin matters like high culture versus low culture, she kicks enough s―t to satisfy dedicated country fans."―Booklist"an engaging account of country's most colorful characters and the acts of self-invention that made them that way."―Reason
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A Song to Sing, a Life to Live: Reflections on Music as Spiritual Practice (The Practices of Faith Series)