From Publishers Weekly
The companion to a PBS documentary miniseries, this unique odyssey plunges deep into the grassroots heart of musical America. Wald, who writes on music for the Boston Globe, and Junkerman, a documentary filmmaker, spent months traveling from the Mississippi's headwaters in northern Minnesota south to the Delta, recording live performances, mingling with musicians, listening to the jazz, blues, rock, gospel, country and bluegrass emanating from 10 states. While FM devotees will recognize some of the acts profiled?Twin Cities band Soul Asylum, gospel choir Sounds of Blackness, New Orleans soul queen Irma Thomas, legendary blues singer Fontella Bass?most of the voices represent what folksinger (and PBS series narrator) Ani DiFranco in her preface to the book aptly calls the "ever-present undercurrent of organically generated music" percolating beneath the mainstream of pop culture. There's something here for almost every taste, be it punk rock, Ojibwe Indian powwow songs, traditional Laotion Hmong tunes, blues sessions in Memphis, hip-hop brass band fusion in New Orleans or a Mexican-American band in Illinois playing everything from traditional corridos to the "Hava Nagilah." Like the river itself, the book rolls along easily from an annual polka fest in Wisconsin to a zydeco dance hall in Louisiana leaping between commentary, interview segments, memorable lyrics, reminiscences and photographs. Showcasing the richness, vitality, energy and variety of music seldom?if ever?heard on top-40 radio stations, this captivating survey will coax readers to watch the PBS miniseries, which starts in January, and to seek out the accompanying CD soundtrack. (Jan.) FYI: Smithsonian Folkways will release the CD companion to the miniseries in this month.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Library Journal
River of Song is the companion volume to a PBS TV documentary series that explores the variety of music found along the Mississippi River. Numerous diverse artists and styles are profiled: the rock group Babes in Toyland, blues artist John Koerner, and the gospel group Sounds of Blackness, as well as a teacher of Hmong music. As the text passes through Iowa, Illinois, and Missouri, readers encounter other styles ranging from polka to jazz to rhythm and blues. The journey ends with the musical riches of Louisiana, including zydeco, jazz, street musicians, hip-hop, brass bands, and Spanish Isle?os. The book contains lengthy transcriptions of interviews with musicians, some song lyrics, and a discography. It is not very effective, however, at describing the music itself, settling for ambiguous adjectives like "flowing and comfortable." Consequently, it is of little research value and is only recommended for libraries with a commitment to providing TV tie-ins.?Michael Colby, Univ. of California, Davis
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.