Friday, March 31, 2006

Dreaming Out Loud- Country music in the 90's

You know that you're way behind in your reading when your latest tome is from the 90's but Dreaming Out Loud (first published 1999) is a fine piece of work, detailing the dizzying pace that country music exploded through the music scene in that same decade.

I'm only 50 pages into it but I've already found three timeless nuggets.

- Rolling Stone magazine sniffing that SAT scores are at an all-time low and when Garth Brooks was at the top of the charts as if the two phenomenons were related. Did they say the same thing later about the American Idol contestants or Britney when they appeared on their cover?

- I think this is just a urban legend but... supposedly, the Grand Ole Opry had propelled a certain superstar at the time (the Garth of that period) to the point that a taunt against American soldiers by the Japanese was "To hell with Franklin Roosevelt! To hell with Babe Ruth! To hell with Roy Acuff!" No, I don't believe it either but it's quite a story.

- Debunking the myth about the country audience being a bunch of tabacco-spitting, drooling hicks, the author details a study that this fan group is actually better educated and earns more than their counterparts in adult contemporary and rock.

Writer Bruce Feiler details his own Southern roots and how he was compelled to run from them but later compelled to return to them. To try to explain the 90's country boom, he spends a lot of time with Garth, Wynonna Judd (when she still had two names) and then up-and-comer Wade Hayes. He paints a lot of evocative behind-the-scene moments in their careers, especially in the beginning where he details their mis-steps and failures- Garth turns down an American Music award, Judd lets Bette Midler steal the spotlight during a supposed comeback and Hayes reluctantly declines an encore at a sold-out show. Very bumpy roads for these stars indeed. Feiler doesn't try to be comprehensive- there was plenty of other stars at that time though not as big and this obviously isn't meant to chronicle the alt-country movement which also exploded then but those are other stories for other books.

And needless to say, a lot has changed subsequently in the last six years or so for country (Big & Rich for one thing) and one hopes that someone like Feiler (or maybe Feiler himself) will be there to chronicle it.


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