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Creating Country Music: Fabricating Authenticity Paperback – December 15, 1999


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Editorial Reviews

From Kirkus Reviews

Though it tends to be a bit too pedantic and stilted, this ambitious study offers interesting insights into America's most popular musical form. Peterson (Sociology/Vanderbilt Univ.) coopts postmodernist vocabulary in his study of contemporary country music's ``authenticity''--such authenticity is, he claims, a cultural and commercial fabrication based on the observation of previous generations of musicians and what individual performers perceive as longterm trends rather than fads. Most interesting is Peterson's separation of country music into ``hard core'' and ``soft shell'' subcategories. Hard-core performers play in a consistent style, write confessional lyrics, and generally live a life that parallels their music. On the other hand, soft-shell musicians, typified by the Grand Ole Opry's style, tended toward musicianship that transcended country, often performing ballads that had been made popular by songwriters and musicians in other formats. For Peterson, the hard-core strain--typified best by the legendary Hank Williams, whose death in 1953 marks the end of the 30-year period that Peterson examines--is perhaps the most ``authentic,'' though his definitions are purposefully slippery, and he certainly means no disrespect to the soft-shell performers (such as Kenny Rogers and Tammy Wynette) to whom he gives attention in his study. Among the most interesting bits of trivia that Peterson offers is that the term ``country'' displaced the more popular term ``folk'' largely due to the efforts of Sen. Joseph McCarthy, whose interrogation of early 1950s folkie Pete Seeger slapped folk music with a ``red'' label that country musicians sought to avoid. With his interesting and perhaps controversial theories, as well as his exhaustive scholarship, Peterson is able to overcome his overly scholarly style and produce an informative study. (illustrations, not seen) -- Copyright ©1997, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: University Of Chicago Press (December 15, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226662853
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226662855
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 0.9 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,098,289 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 2, 1998
Format: Hardcover
The "authentic" in country music is not as easily defined as might be thought.
Peterson traces its roots from the early "hillbilly" days on the new medium of radio to the death of Hank Williams in 1953, noting along the way the contributions of promoters, performers, and fans in continuously re-defining the genre to adapt to changing tastes and circumstances.

Many readers will be looking for the early histories of the old time performers, and they will not be disappointed. They may be surprised at the professionalism that lay beneath rustic exteriors, and the degree of conscious attention to "signifiers of authenticity" by their favorite artist.

(The "score" rating is an ineradicable feature of the page. This reviewer does not 'score" books.)
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By JerryWithaJ on October 17, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Unlike reviewer "A Customer", I do score books and give this one an unreserved 5 stars!

Fans of old time, country, and bluegrass music are prone to spent hours on end discussing what is "authentic". Petersen argues convincingly, in an engaging style rare for academic authors, that much of the argument is about artifice(*), that much of what appears to be authentic was actually invented to meet the needs of what was to become a huge commercial industry.

Those who care about the origins of old time, bluegrass, and country music will find this a stimulating read. They may not agree with it, but will find it fascinating and thought provoking. They won't be able to think about the music the same way again.

(*) Acknowledgment: I gave a copy of this book to a friend who is deeply knowledgeable about old time and early country and bluegrass music. Without having read the book, his wife looked at the cover and said succinctly, "It discusses the artifice of country music." So, I credit *her* with the perfect one word summary of the book!
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on January 15, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Highly recommended for anyone studying consumption and authenticity. An exemplar of how to organize a study of the growth of an area in the arts. It also defines and gives examples of the construction of authenticity that really creates a core for future studies of authenticity to build on.
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