I’ve read ten music-related books this year (one of those, Billy Vera’s Rip it Up: The Specialty Records Story I’m still reading and will review soon). I enjoyed all of them to varying degrees, but a few stood out. If you’re thinking of a belated Christmas gift for someone – or just a good read for yourself – I can enthusiastically recommend these titles. Links to full reviews are below.
The Girl in the Back by Laura Davis-Chanin
On one level, Davis-Chanin’s memoir is about her encounters with David Bowie. But to focus solely (or even primarily) on that angle is to miss the author’s rich and vivid personal account of her involvement in the New York City music scene. And while she doesn’t center the narrative around it, her own set of major medical challenges inform the story, making it a book that ultimately transcends music- and pop-culture writing. I spoke at length with Laura; a feature based on that conversation is here.
Bitten by the Blues by Bruce Iglauer
Blues fans know Iglauer’s name; he’s the man behind Alligator Records. But he was also a prime force in the launching of the venerable Living Blues magazine. Iglauer’s book is a personal memoir and a history of the Chicago label. He’s a candid, pull-no-punches storyteller, and while he’s not out to settle scores with Bitten by the Blues, neither does he shy away from sharing his perspective on artists whose names you’ll recognize, as well as on the state of the blues and the music industry. Essential reading for those interested in the business of music, blues fans or not. My review of Iglauer’s book first appeared in – wait for it – Living Blues, but you can read it on Musoscribe as well.
Echoes by Glenn Phillips
I notice that my favorite books this year as the ones written in the most personal style. That’s certainly the case with this memoir by the Atlanta guitarist and founding member of the Hampton Grease Band. As Glenn Phillips is a comparatively below-the-radar artist (albeit an excellent one who deserves wider notice), one unfamiliar with his music might thin that a memoir wouldn’t hold much interest. They’d be very wrong. Phillips’ story is riveting. He’s an unusual figure in many ways, and the sort of unselfconscious outsider perspective makes Echoes a great read. Here’s my in-depth review of the book and its multimedia bonus material.
More 2019 best-ofs to come.