It looks like a gorgeous nostalgia trip to judge by the cover image alone. The photo is of an old school record player that lies unplugged, a white label test-pressing waiting on the turntable, while a band of paper wrapped around the cover announces the title in ye olde woodblock-looking type, American Music
. A reading of the small type on the back cover reveals the image to be the very record and turntable left in Elvis Presleys bedroom the day he died, and the mind reels, thinking about whether the King listened to this record on that day or not, and who are the Stamps, anyway? An excellent selection of musician portraits interspersed with crumbly wooden jook joints and wide open fields in the South, American Music
covers a wide gamut of jazz, blues, punk, country, hip-hop, rock and roll, folk and gospel musicians. And while most of the pictures were shot between 1999 and 2002, some go back to the early 1970s, when Leibovitz first became Rolling Stone
magazine's chief photographer. Some of the artists are very well-known (Michael Stipe, Dolly Parton, Bob Dylan) and some of them are not (Jessie Mae Hemphill, Other Turner, Carlos Coy). Leibovitz really has a way of relaxing her performers, and this is a great part of her gift. Even when the pictures are so posed as to be ridiculous (like, what's Michael Stipe doing on that bedbug-ridden mattress-the guy's a billionaire?), she catches her subjects at their most "real." They are lost in their music, or just doing some "real person" thing (look, there is Beck in his cardoes Beck really drive his own car?). The presentation may be a little hokey, but this book is sure to please most any music fan. --Mike McGonigal
Praise for American Music
“[Leibovitz] explores more deeply than ever the landscape of America’s sound, from a New Orleans funeral to a Baptist church to an empty juke joint.”
“Leibovitz’s approach to both celebrity and non-celebrity musicians is remarkably consistent . . . [Her] conception of glamour is anything but aloof. She situates her subjects right there in front of you.”
–The New York TimesFrom the Trade Paperback edition.