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Rednecks & Bluenecks: The Politics of Country Music Paperback – September 30, 2007


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 302 pages
  • Publisher: New Press, The (September 30, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1595582185
  • ISBN-13: 978-1595582188
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.8 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,703,589 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

As a snapshot of the range of political opinions held by country music artists "during the critical three and a half years between 9/11 and Bush's reinauguration, with only minimal editorial interruption," this entertaining if overlong collection of profiles is clear and effective. Entertainment Weekly writer Willman applies his magazine's breezy, irreverent style to explore the left- or right-wing leanings of his subjects, from heavyweights like the Dixie Chicks, Toby Keith, Steve Earle, Brooks & Dunn, Clint Black and Merle Haggard to newer, minor artists like the Drive-By Truckers. In spite of Willman's success in presenting these artists in depth, the results aren't too surprising: while there certainly is "a good chunk of Democrats" in the industry, "the stereotype that country music has become the house genre of the GOP isn't easily or persuasively disproven." Most fascinating are the moments when Willman gets the artists to let down their guard, such as when Toby Keith talks about his Democratic tendencies, Ricky Skaggs shows his genuine affection for his more leftist friends such as Rodney Crowell, and Travis Tritt discusses his duet with the left-wing rocker John Mellencamp and unintentionally shows that success still trumps politics in Nashville.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

In the wake of the brouhaha over the Dixie Chicks and their views on sharing Texas origins with the president, Willman discovered clashing politics among country musicians and fans. Overall, he muses, the country-music political landscape has experienced the rest of the nation's conservative drift as ever more politicos try to access voters by identifying with pop musicians. If rock is the Left's music, then mainstream country is becoming the Right's, Willman seems to say. But just as there is the occasional right-wing rocker (e.g., Johnny Ramone, Ted Nugent), Willman notes that the scruffy alt-country contingent, personified here by hardcore individualist Steve Earle, is decidedly left of center, or at least quirky, and sets up the potential for political counterpoint on country playlists and county-fair concert lineups. In a bang-up final chapter, Willman takes the example of Merle Haggard opening for Bob Dylan on tour to look at how music makes strange political bedfellows and how artists' perceived politics change over time. An enjoyable, informative survey. Mike Tribby
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

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Anyone who loves country music or politics should definately buy this book.
Maurice
"Rednecks and Bluenecks," however, focuses largely on a generation of country music artists that is not being replaced by likeminded singers and pickers.
Sam Sattler
Author Chris Willman captures this time exceedingly well in this excellent new book.
Andrew West Griffin

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By UrbanRube on November 23, 2005
Format: Hardcover
You don't have to know much about country music to enjoy this book, with its on-the-scene reporting and plenty of opinion-making by country stars like Toby Keith, Alan Jackson, Steve Earle, the Dixie Chicks, and Merle Haggard, in their own words. Working at Entertainment Weekly must be what gives the author his snark, but it works here as he gives a refreshingly non-partisan review of our divided country and the divide in country music.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Craig VINE VOICE on March 3, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I read this book mainly because I like country music, and because I was interested in knowing a little bit about some of the artists' views beyond what we hear in a 4-minute song.

I know that some reviewers have complained about what they perceive as Willman's left-leaning stance, and I'd have to agree with them that he's not completely objective. A little too much time is spent on the plight of the Dixie Chicks, for whom I feel bad, but whose story probably could have been shortened in an attempt to include more viewpoints. At the same time, though, Willman does not criticize one side while leaving the other alone.

Several artists speak freely and articulately, from both sides of the spectrum - Steve Earle, Toby Keith, and Ronnie Dunn might not be having dinner together anytime soon, but it was fascinating to hear each of their perspectives. And for anyone who believes country musicians to be less than intelligent as a whole, this book will likely open some eyes. The level of political awareness among many of the artists, particularly Keith and Dunn, will surprise many.

One item that I really enjoyed was the discussion of the fued between Toby Keith and the Dixie Chicks. It was interesting to read Keith's comments about the Chicks' insults, and I got the feeling that he was insulted more about their criticism of his musical talent than any political views he might have. He's obviously a proud artist, and it seems like he was genuinely taken somewhat aback.

This is a great book, one that held me so much that I wished Willman had included another 50 pages. For any fan of country music, or just those interested in the politics of that music.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Laurie A. Dunn on February 28, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I bought this book based on a recommendation I heard on NPR , but other than being a fan of Lyle Lovett's music (and self-described liberal) I have no real knowledge at all of country music - alternative or mainstream. That didn't matter. The politics that are part of country music are so interesting that it was hard to put the book down. As a freelance writer myself, Chris Willman writes how I only wish I could. The book is well-researched and presented in a smart and eloquent way. Great stories and commentary throughout.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Andrew West Griffin on March 11, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I have been highly interested in the "politics of country music" ever since 9/11. When the patriotic songs started coming out (Aaron Tippin, Alan Jackson), it was pretty apolitical and pro-America. Then, the following year we had Toby Keith's "Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue (The Angry American)" and then when the Dixie Chicks' Natalie Maines said it was "ignorant," all bets were off. Things really picked up in spring '03 with the Dixie Chicks controversy went global following Maines' anti-Bush comments. At the same time you had Darryl Worley asking "Have You Forgotten?" and Clint Black's clunker "Iraq and Roll." For a while, there, it was quite a big deal and all eyes were on country music - a good thing, in my estimation.

Author Chris Willman captures this time exceedingly well in this excellent new book. He gets the conservatives and the liberals and everyone in between. You really get some great insight into Toby Keith. The reader realizes he's not some jingoistic warhawk. He's a patriotic Democrat, something the talk show types conveniently forget. We get the lowdown on the Dixie Chicks episode, something I was particularly interested in, being a big fan of the group and Natalie Maines in particular.

I can't say enough good things about Willman's book. Run out and get it.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By B. Lane on January 28, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
If country music is the people's music is it any surprise that there's as much complexity and nuance as there is reflected in this great book? Well written and insightful..and it'll help as a shopping list for your Amazon music purchases.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By F. Mathewes-Green on October 11, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I'm not a consistent country music fan -- I mostly tune in on car trips, where the 3-minute storytelling offers great help in staying awake, mile after weary mile. So there were three things that impressed me about this book.

1-It made a subject I was only tangentially interested in really interesting, mostly through the presentation of characters and personalities...

2-...because the author has such a good eye for character, paired with a good ear for language. He spots the telling detail that will summarize a person or situation neatly, and expresses it in a crisp, memorable way.

3-Yet it's also a heroic work of balance. In the volatile red vs blue, conservative vs liberal battlefield, Willman is consistently honest and yet never betrays bias -- bracingly fair.

You get a good example of all three elements right at the start, as he describes the reaction to the Dixie Chicks' controversial "anti-Bush" statement, among citizens gathered outside a performance in Greenville, SC. Just when it's tempting to stereotype a character, Willman shows how shallow and unhelpful such stereotyping is.

Buy this book because you're interested in country music or politics or some combination thereof -- but read and enjoy it for the high quality of the reporting and writing.
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