Can’t-Wait Wednesday: Books by J.G. Hetherton, David Joy, and Stephen Markley

These three recently released books are deep in the Hillbilly Highways wheelhouse.  Last Girl Gone is set in my home state of North Carolina, a thriller featuring a journalist who returns to the small town she grew up in.  David Joy is walking in the mighty footprints left by Ron Rash, and The Line That Held Us is a tale about one deadly accident setting off a cycle of violence set in my old stomping grounds in the NC mountains.  Ohio is set in, well, Ohio, but I’m a Midwesterner now, and I can’t resist a book that gets compared favorably to Friday Night Lights.

I’ve been crazy busy, but a busy travel month has finally given me some reading time.  I finished Last Girl Gone by J.G. Hetherton and The Line That Held Us by David Joy during my last two trips.  I started Ohio by Stephen Markley on my last trip and should finish it on my next one.  I’m a little iffy on Ohio right now, but Last Girl Gone and The Line That Held Us are solid 4-star books.

You can expect reviews of all three books over the next month or so.  All are out now in one format or another and available at Amazon (click on the cover pics for an affiliate link).

Can’t-Wait Wednesdays is hosted by Wishful Endings.

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Music Monday: Desperate Man by Eric Church

I promoted J.P. Harris instead of Eric Church a week and a half ago, but I don’t want Church’s good work in the mainstream to go unrecognized.  I like to poke fun, but he makes music as good as anyone in mainstream country today (a low bar, to be sure).

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New Music Friday: Songs of the Plains by Colter Wall

This is by no means a music blog, but my Music Monday and New Music Friday posts have invigorated my discovery of new music, and I have been unearthing a flood of great stuff.  Colter Wall is very near the top of those great new-to-me artists.

Out today: Songs of the Plains by Colter Wall.

(Friday Night Lights Friday will resume next week.)

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Nonfiction: The New Mind of the South by Tracy Thompson

That is a mighty audacious title, self-consciously placing The New Mind of the South as a successor to W.J. Cash’s seminal The Mind of the South.

Thompson gives two catalysts for writing this book.  First, she discovers that one of her ancestors was a Union sympathizer.  As someone who grew up in southern Appalachia hearing (inflated) stories about how much Union support up there, I was a bit bemused at her overreaction.  Thompson’s second catalyst is the disappearance of sorts of the South.  This is certainly true, but only to a point.  W.J. Cash’s closing paragraph still rings true today.  Thompson sees the South as defined by, first and foremost, two cultural institutions: slavery and evangelical Protestantism.  The small fact that slavery no longer exists does little to lessen its influence today.  The ruts and scars are still there.  The South has always been religious, and even as the ubiquity of religion has faded its intensity has grown.

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Music Monday: The Carolina Chocolate Drops

Last week I featured some traditional Scottish music.  Old-time music or old-time string band music is a form of roots music.  In contrast with its cousin bluegrass, old-time is deeply concerned with preserving, reviving, and building on the traditional music brought to America from Scotland, England, and Africa.

I’ve always strongly preferred old-time string bands over a bluegrass act.  I say always, but I’ve only known the term “old-time” for about a decade.  Before that, I just knew it as the music I grew up hearing at events around my small, southern Appalachian town, played by an old man with a fiddle or a mandolin.  That, though, was music that was literally dying with the old men who played it.  Early in the group’s history, the Carolina Chocolate Drops spent much of their time to Mebane, North Carolina to learn from a 90-year-old African-American fiddler named Joe Thompson.  They weren’t just learning to make music, they were engaging in cultural anthropology and historical preservation.

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Friday Night Lights Friday: FNL season 3

I’m going to come right out and say it: Season 3 is the best season of FNL.  It is not a coincidence, I think, that season 3 is also the first season after FNL moved from being a straight network show and the first season with a planned short season (Season 2 being artificially shortened by the writers’ strike, as I recall).

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