Desiree Koh's Reviews > It Still Moves: Lost Songs, Lost Highways, and the Search for the Next American Music

It Still Moves by Amanda Petrusich
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's review
Aug 12, 2009

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bookshelves: mademesmart
Read in August, 2009

If you're into the history of American music, as I am, and learning about their provenance in the roots of folk, blues, bluegrass and country, this is a pretty easy going 101 into how it all came about. How Elvis stepped up to the Sun Studios mic, how Robert Johnson sold his soul to the devil on Highway 61, how Ledbelly busted out of jail and how Johnny Cash stomped across a Folsom Prison stage.

The premise is cool, and made me want to jump into my truck and go back to Memphis and Nashville to experience it all again - Petrusich road-tripped and re-traced the steps of Americana's greatest musicians and told their story. What I didn't was that she told her story, too - that isn't a bad thing. What's annoying is that her story is framed through female melodrama and the perspective of what I only aptly call "vagina music." You know, those chicks with long hair they barely chew at the ends of sipping lattes in coffee shops and being all edgy and poetry-reading.

That equation didn't work for me. The roots of American music emerged from devastating situations, resulting in a toughness that blew its way into a cornucopia of musical styles and flew into place like dervishes on the rack. I didn't appreciate it being broken down into coffee shop theory or mournful puppy dog pondering.

All that personal grievance aside, I learned a lot from Petrusich's tireless investigations and research - she is a good reporter. However, one gets the feeling she didn't quite get the access she needed - many quotes featured come from books and essays, rather than from the experts directly, so in many ways, the book comes across as a dissertation. Which is fine... if you want to relate. Not so if you're looking for education.

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