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Nashville Chrome

3.19  ·  Rating details ·  274 ratings  ·  75 reviews
Late in 1959, the Brown siblings Maxine, Bonnie, and Jim Ed were enjoying unprecedented international success, rivaled only by their longtime friend Elvis Presley. They had a bona fide megahit on their hands, which topped both the country and pop charts and gave rise to the polished sound of the multibillion dollar country music industry we know today. Mesmerized by the Br ...more
Hardcover, 272 pages
Published September 14th 2010 by Houghton Mifflin (first published 2010)
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Average rating 3.19  · 
Rating details
 ·  274 ratings  ·  75 reviews

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Oct 05, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Some people get Rick Bass, others don't. Just when I thought I did, I came across this one. Different, but also good. It has a quasi biography, quasi short story collection, quasi novel feel to it. What it does well (in keeping with his written works about everything from hunting trips to oil rigs to Rhinos mounted in gas stations to naked drifts in cold water streams to landscapes and prison cells) is get inside the heads of his characters. Exposing us all to the thoughts we've each had---then ...more
Oct 06, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Basically this whole book

I picked this up on a total whim because I was driving out of Nashville and it's about Nashville and hey, why not. The story follows a trio of siblings who work their way through the rising country music scene in the 40s and 50s and it could have been really cool, but unfortunately Bass completely mishandled it.

The "show don't tell" image is because maybe (maaaaaybe) 10% of this whole thing is dialogue, and you know what you can't do with very little dialogue? Tell a long story. Especially tell
Nov 21, 2010 rated it did not like it
Why a novel? The Browns deserved better. The reader can't tell fiction from fact, it's more a faux ethnography than a novel. Although I'm a Cormac McCarthy fan (especially of Suttree), his opening quote that Bass employs is the best thing about this book. Bass uses a McCarthy-inspired style for the opening chapters that does not measure up by any means. Case in point: describing Arkansas woodsmen, Bass writes, "Many of them had become lithified to the world, with only the perspiration that spran ...more
Jul 15, 2012 rated it it was ok
"Show me don't tell me" seems like a rule the author has set out to deliberately ignore and flaunt, as the entire "novel" is more like a huge creative writing exercise in how to string together endless paragraphs of similes and reflections. No one really does or says anything; instead, the author spends pages describing the incident, the character, the moment, the sunrise, and everything else in terms that appear to put it all within its proper context of the entire universe and all of human his ...more
Lynne Perednia
Nov 28, 2010 rated it liked it
Rick Bass has written glorious, thick, rich and deep stories and nonfiction about the West, as well as The Diezmo, a slim novel about a band of would-be militia conquerors of Mexico sent by Sam Houston on a mission that goes horribly wrong. So it was a surprise that he went to the deep South and to music for his latest novel, Nashville Chrome (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2010). It's a fictionalized account of the Browns, a sibling trio who created remarkable harmonies that pioneered American musi ...more
Jul 26, 2013 rated it did not like it
This book was chosen by my bookclub. It's doubtful I would have read it otherwise. Though there were some interesting parts, overall I really struggled with the author's style. The third person Omniscient Narration made it hard for me to get attached to any of the characters. The almost total lack of dialogue made the story too dry for my tastes as well.

Flowery prose seems to be this author's strong suit, and some of the imagery was beautiful. But many parts were clunky and read like a thesauru
West Hartford Public Library
Feb 09, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: martha
Rick Bass has written a compelling fictional account of the lives of the Browns, country music stars of the 1950's. Told from the point of view of Maxine, oldest of the three siblings, Bass alternates between the present and the past, giving us pictures of the group's days of fame and stardom, their life as a family and most poignant, Maxine's sense of loss at the end of her career. So believable are these characters that I wanted to hear them sing - thank heaven for YouTube! ...more
Jun 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: own
When I first started reading "Nashville Chrome," I didn't know The Browns were an actual group. I think it's to Rick Bass's credit he was able to merge fact and fiction so skillfully I wasn't sure how much was true and how much was made-up and was compelled to research whether Maxine, Bonnie, and Jim Ed really existed. With any Bass book, one can expect artful and often lyrical prose, and this one is no different. There is always the close attunement to nature, and in "Nashville Chrome" some of ...more
Sep 27, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Years before Elvis Presley burst onto the scene, there were the Browns – Maxine, Jim Ed and Bonnie – who rolled out number one hits, topping the charts time and again.

People came – Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Patsy Cline, Buddy Holly, and the King himself – just to hear them. “They came, they brushed up against the Browns, and then they went on their way – magic-brushed, and forged from a fire they sometimes didn’t even realize they’d touch, though others of them understood right from the very
G.K. Wuori
Sep 05, 2011 rated it liked it
Nashville Chrome, Rick Bass
I remember from somewhere back in the sixties a song called, “Little Jimmy Brown,” kind of a sappy thing that did become something of a hit. It was sung by a group called The Browns: Maxine, Bonnie, and Jim Ed. What I didn’t realize until I was well into this book was that it was a novel about the real Browns. They came from hardscrabble roots with daddy Floyd a logger and momma Birdie rather nondescript. But they had talent and began to make it big. Unfortunately the
Andy Miller
Nov 14, 2010 rated it liked it
Nashville Chrome is a novel about the Brown family, a country music family trio from Arkansas. that were popular in the 50s. The background of the novel about growing up in rural Arkansas was just great, weaving together a geographic, natural and social background is what Rick Bass does best.

It was a bit jarring to read the development of their singing success with real life characters such as Elvis Presley featured prominently. I was turned off when in the novel the younger sister dated Elvis a
Garlan ✌
I'm a huge fan of Rick Bass' short fiction. His stories are almost all southern gothic with a touch of the fantastic about them. That doesn't always translate well into longer fiction, but Bass nailed it in this one. A few of the chapters read as if they were short stories (and probably were), but the author managed to pull them all together into a very good, cohesive story.

This story is about the country musical group of the late 50's - early 60's, The Browns. I'm not a country music fan, never
Feb 07, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I came across this book through the podcast of The Write Question a weekly literary program from Montana Public Radio that features writers from the western United States and on which Rick Bass talked about the genesis of this novel and working with the Browns. ( I definitely recommend listening to the interview for a lot of insights). He readily admits he had some trouble with this book, since the siblings are all still alive. I am a big fan of Bass, esp ...more
Kristina Harper
Dec 28, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-fiction
This book, a fictional look at the lives of early Elvis-era country singers, the Browns, who had a new and unique sound and really founded country music in its best form, makes beautiful use of the language but was difficult to read. First -- and it seems silly to mention -- it was physically difficult: a volume small in size and dense with a tiny font. I really had to strain to see it, which made comprehension a challenge, and which is something publishers ought to keep in mind. It must save th ...more
Jan 05, 2012 rated it it was ok
Based loosely on the lives of the Brown family country singers - it's a very depressing look at the lives of this family as they grow up with a very special gift under very tough family circumstances. Three siblings that could sing in perfect harmony, who were well known in the country music area, but never quite made it to the "big time" - always just a step behind those who have become country legends.

You'll recognize a number of famous country musicians - how they came in and out of the famil
Bookmarks Magazine
Oct 11, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: nov-dec-2010
Critics disagreed somewhat over the success of Nashville Chrome, a fictionalized account of the Browns' life story and the burden of fame. All acknowledged that Bass is a master of his craft--from his storytelling abilities to his beautiful, lyrical prose. Here, his descriptions of the Arkansas swamps and the natural world shine. Yet reviewers diverged on a number of issues. A few thought that the best parts of the novel chronicle Maxine's present-day life--and her transition from an ambitious y ...more
Mar 14, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2011
This is a very fine novel, or novelization of real events. Unfortunately, the potentially appreciative audience is pretty small. I know most of the words to Pop-a-Top and all the words to the Dollar General Store jingle, but that kind of information rarely comes in handy while reading an attempt at serious literature.

This is a retelling of the (not-well-known) story of the Browns. It's about Jim Ed, Bonnie (one of Elvis' girlfriends) and particularly Maxine who, in her autumn years, has never fi
May 26, 2011 rated it really liked it
I very much enjoyed reading this novel about the singing group of the 1950's, early 60's, the Browns. It brought back memories of the music that was popular when I was growing up as well as defining the roots of music today. Although it is fiction, it is historical in nature.

I did go on Maxine Brown's website to learn more and listen to some of the music on youtube. That was fun and interesting. I wrote Maxine a note on her Facebook page and she responded! That is always exciting for me that so
Oct 13, 2011 rated it really liked it
Rick Bass is to the novel what the indie label is to music. He isn't looking to movie mountains or make some grand profit, but instead to be as artful and true to story as he can.

Reviews of this book that miss the point that fiction can spring from a true story must miss a great deal in reading, as every story has it's fictions.

The writing is gorgeous. The opening scenes where the set up of family bonds are illustrated really worked for me. In particular, the ways the siblings can hear the har
Tim Sniffin
Historical fiction written as American folklore. Rick Bass's lyrical narrative style fits this kind of story perfectly, and he walks a tightrope between storytelling and mythology, creating a unique novel that goes far beyond simply fictionalizing history. Only once did he seem to stumble, but that character introduction turned into one of the novel's best subplots. Bass tends to be a stronger short story writer who usually writes about lives out in the wilderness, but his out-of-comfort-zone ch ...more
Deon Stonehouse
Nashville Chrome by Rick Bass takes us on a wild ride to a time before rapper MC Hammer told us “You Got The Power”. A time when a young truck driver shocked a nation by showing that raw power with his swiveling hips and curled lip, Presley would be called King. The face of music was about to change. Jerry Lee was pounding the ivories and howling to the moon, and the Brown family rose to stardom with a sound so pure, so full of life and yearning, that it reached right down in the soul. Roots in ...more
Jun 01, 2016 rated it really liked it
Rick Bass' recasting of the Brown family story may lack the creative stretch that Michael Ondaatje brought to his version of Buddy Bolden's life. But Bass had more information to work with and the challenge of not overplaying the Elvis connection. He navigates both deftly.

In the end, Bass tells a powerful story of family, educates the reader about a corner of the music world much ignored these days and animates the challenges, thrills and pitfalls and fame, all while maintaining the dignity and
Jul 15, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-in-2010
After Rick Bass spoke with Maxine Brown of the chart topping Browns of the 50's and early 60's, he decided to write a novel about the Browns.

The novel centers on Maxine, the oldest sister of the Browns but also includes her sister Bonnie and Brother, Jim Ed. The Browns grew up in the swamps of Arkansas during the Great Depression. Their father had a saw mill that they helped with when there was enough money to keep it going and when their father was sober enough.

The secret to his.. Read the rest
Trey Piepmeier
Oct 08, 2010 rated it liked it
There are parts in this book where Bass goes into his very immersive descriptions of natural phenomenon that I loved in Where The Sea Used To Be. It was a little weirder in the context of a country music trio, but I think it worked. I really love his writing style.

It took me a very long time to read this. I bought it when I first got my Kindle, and I don't know how long that's been now... many moons, for sure. The nice thing about this book, and I'm sure the reason I actually finished it after a
Jun 02, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: didn-t-finish
This book was very confusing. I thought it was about a fictional music group from the 50's. After reading the reviews, apparently this was a real group. I wish that I had known that from the start. I felt like the author took liberties with the details about Elvis and other stars. I also found it boring that the story just didn't seem to go anywhere. My parents were from the south, so I could appreciate his descriptions of the mountains, streams, etc. and the food that Birdie cooks. I just could ...more
Nov 09, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, read-2010
I am not able to give an adequate review of how close to fact the book is, but story of the trio and their journey through country music was fascinating.[return][return]If you haven't read Rick Bass before, you will find it a real joy. He isn't big on dialogue in this book and there isn't any real plot, but the characters and language are captivating. I found myself reading sections over and over to let the words roll in my mind with the images they created. The depth of character in his study w ...more
Keith Eldridge
Sep 21, 2010 rated it really liked it
Nashville Chrome, Rick Bass, 2010. This is a novel about the real life Country and pop stars the Browns. The Browns consisted of siblings Maxine, Bonnie, and Jim Ed. One of their many top ten songs was Three Bells. This book explores their beginnings and early years and then follows them later in life. The Browns toured closely with Jim Reeves and Chet Atkins. They also were very close to Elvis Presley. All of these stars appear in the fictional rendition. Rick Bass's prose is very subtle and be ...more
Feb 26, 2011 rated it liked it
This book is about a brother and two sisters who sing country western music and make it big. About half way through the book something made me wonder if they ere real and I found out they were and I know a few of their songs. Don't like fiction books about real people. Just seems so deceiving. The reader doesn't know what is historically true and what is fiction. Another problem with this book is the lack of dialogue. This is probably why I never really got into the main character, Maxine. ...more
Yet another 2.5 rating....I received this one as a gift after hearing about it on NPR. The interview was much more interesting than the book. It is based on real people and events, three family members and the rise and fall of their singing career. One of the three was the main feature, second sibling moderately featured and the third sibling hardly mentioned. Why the author spent so much time on their relationship with Elvis I failed to understand. Snoozer.
Jan 26, 2011 rated it it was ok
For the first part of this book, I didn't think the Brown family was real, and I thought, what's the point? Why didn't he just write about the Carter family and call them the Carter family? I still can't quite believe that the Brown's are real. Then I'm not sure why he didn't write this as nonfiction, though I guess the answer is because he wouldn't have been able to do a lot of the things he did in his novel. ...more
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Rick Bass was born in Fort Worth, Texas, and grew up in Houston, the son of a geologist. He studied petroleum geology at Utah State University and while working as a petroleum geologist in Jackson, Mississippi, began writing short stories on his lunch breaks. In 1987, he moved with his wife, the artist Elizabeth Hughes Bass, to Montana’s remote Yaak Valley and became an active environmentalist, wo ...more

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