From Publishers Weekly
A disjointed but ultimately interesting collection of essays, most of which previously appeared in various publications, Rythm Oil (the title comes from a potion sold in Memphis) is less a journey than a series of snapshots covering 70 years of Southern and Southern-influenced music and performers. Beginning with a dramatized version of bluesman Robert Johnson's infamous encounter with the Devil--"the embodiment of Faustian legend"--Booth ( The True Adventures of the Rolling Stones ) also chronicles his own meetings with such musicians as B. B. King, Furry Lewis, Otis Redding, Keith Richards and a host of others. The book explores, through interview and observation, who influenced and was influenced by these performers. In an introduction to a Rolling Stone article included here about Janis Joplin, Booth writes: "I slowly awoke to the realization that I was describing the progress of something, a kind of sexy, subversive music," which is about as close to stating a central theme as he comes. There is a raucous quality to Booth's style that is in keeping with the lives and music of his subjects. Photos.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Kirkus Reviews
Top-flight memoir/article collection on Memphis, blues musicians, and rock 'n' roll, by the author of 1984's Dance with the Devil: The Rolling Stones, who has abandoned the gonzo style of that work for a much more intimate and moving tie with the reader. Most of these pieces first appeared in Playboy, Esquire, Rolling Stone, Smart, etc. Here, however, Booth dresses them up with tasty slabs of soul-memory about how each came to be--so the collection hangs together with unusual strength, emerging from the weathers and currents of Memphis and the blues at the birth of rock 'n' roll. Perhaps the most brilliantly inventive piece is the first, ``Standing at the Crossroads,'' a two-character, one-act play about haunted bluesman Robert Johnson literally (he thinks) selling his soul to the devil at midnight on a deserted crossroads in the Mississippi Delta. Several sections commemorate the fading energies of Beale Street and its music halls, and the deaths and funerals of many bluesmen and rockers Booth knew personally, including Mississippi John Hurt, Charlie Freeman, and Otis Redding. Booth interviewed Redding a week before the singer died. Outstanding is ``Furry's Blues,'' the true story of a one-legged blues singer/guitarist who spent 40 years as a Memphis street- sweeper while playing occasional weekends in clubs. Booth relives the first glories of Sun Records in his hometown and the rise of Elvis, then does a stinging piece on Elvis in 1967, when he was supersaturated with success. Janis Joplin's failure before a half- black audience, because her pickup band wasn't blues trained, is a highlight, as are pieces on Keith Richards, Al Green, and Phineas Newborn. Feelingful all the way, and a tribute to the blues. -- Copyright ©1992, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.