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American Rose: A Nation Laid Bare: The Life and Times of Gypsy Rose Lee
American Rose: A Nation Laid Bare: The Life and Times of Gypsy Rose Lee
Offered by Random House LLC
Price: $11.84

2.0 out of 5 stars one cypher writes about 3 more., February 3, 2015
anticipating both a thorough characterization of Gypsy Rose Lee and the era in which she lived, it turns out the weak anecdotes and the simpy reading of the text that Karen Abbott is as much of a cypher as the ostensibly glsmorous women she tries to convey...Gypsy, Mama, and June. Dull. No one, least of all Gypsy, comes to life and that may be because Abbott tries to be deadeningly circumspect. Zzzzzzzz


Ground Hog Blues
Ground Hog Blues
Price: $0.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Great stride piano and vocals., November 24, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Ground Hog Blues (MP3 Music)
Excellent barrelhouse blues!


Houses of Noir: Dark Visions from Thirteen Film Studios
Houses of Noir: Dark Visions from Thirteen Film Studios
Price: $14.74

5.0 out of 5 stars All About Noir, November 24, 2014
Detailed and well written.


I'll Be Watching You
I'll Be Watching You
by M. William Phelps
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
63 used & new from $0.01

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Read "Perfect Poision" Instead, August 15, 2011
I am a big fan of audio books, and a bigger fan of true crime and forensics. For my first Phelps book, I elected to "read" "Perfect Poison," the true story of a deranged serial killing nurse in western Massachusetts. I set the audio player for 2 hours the first night, and couldn't help but override it -- the book is killingly well done. It's long and detailed, like IBWY, but riveting.

Unfortunately, I chose "I'll Be Watching You" as my second Phelps selection -- again, as an audio book (I am a professional book reviewer, so when I'm too tired to keep reading, and want to cram in a little more, I turn to audiobooks instead of TV before bedtime.)

I agree with the critics of this book -- I tried several times to get interested in it, but just couldn't. The writing is, indeed, discordant and jumpy and full of way too much detail, rendered at snail's pace.

"Perfect Poision," on the other hand, is a well-written, smoothly flowing page turner, in my opinion.


Which Side Are You On?: An Inside History of the Folk Music Revival in America
Which Side Are You On?: An Inside History of the Folk Music Revival in America
by Dick Weissman
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $26.55
61 used & new from $8.38

7 of 11 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Wuz You Really There, Dick?, January 21, 2011
Despite the jacket blurbs and publisher's one-sheet, Weissman, who has deliberately written here about politicized folk music, feels free to share some of the most confounding opinions this former political activist and fan of political folk music has ever read. There are some good sections, and these appear in the first half of the book. The best sections are historical, antedating Weissman's birth, so he wasn't "there" for the better parts of this exercise.

Remember, this book's title refers to a song written for striking coal miners and labor activists. It was written in 1932 by Florence Reece, the wife of a striking Harlan County, Kentucky, coal miner. Weissman is allegedly going to give us the "inside scoop," on the turbulent 1960s. Not really. He ultimately shares little personal insight in this book, despite the fact that he was briefly in the thick of it as a performer and former member of the Journeymen with the late John Phillips and Scott Mackenzie.

When Weissman (quoted in the publisher's one-sheet, to my astonishment) dismisses the talented songwriter and committed leftist and political activist Phil Ochs as a "politician rather than a folk musician," one is tempted to ask, aren't those the people you're writing about, Dick? Then, on page 174, he again does Ochs's legacy a huge -- almost punitive -- disservice when he writes, "By 1975, Ochs had become frustrated by his lack of success... He became a virtually homeless alcoholic, and committed suicide." What?! That's it on Phil Ochs? Just 26 words?

Nowhere does Weissman note Ochs's involvement in American leftist politics during the presidential elections of 1964 and 1968, nor his active support of international political solidarity. For example, he organized and performed at a huge rally protesting the CIA assassination of Chile's first democratically elected president, Salvador Allende, in 1973. Nowhere is any of this mentioned.

Worse yet is omission of any mention of the many classic songs Ochs wrote or adapted -- from the lyrical ("Changes," "Bound for Glory," and the perennial "Highwayman") to the caustic ("I Ain't Marching Anymore," Draft Dodger Rag," "Here's to the State of Mississippi") and the profound ("In the Heat of the Summer," "White Boots Marching in a Yellow Land," "The Scorpion Departs and Never Returns," "Rehearsals for Retirement"). I recommend this book be taken with a big grain of folk-salt. Meanwhile, try to see "There But for Fortune," the full-length film documentary on the genius who was Phil Ochs.
Comment Comments (5) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 10, 2014 8:48 AM PST


Blues Traveling: The Holy Sites of Delta Blues, Third Edition
Blues Traveling: The Holy Sites of Delta Blues, Third Edition
by Steve Cheseborough
Edition: Paperback
Price: $16.99
82 used & new from $7.99

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Great Guide Book for Traveling Blues Fans, May 29, 2009
In his 1991 masterpiece, Blue Highways, William Least Heat Moon takes the reader on a journey of American discovery, scrupulously avoiding the interstates in favor of the nation's rural back roads.

With Blues Traveling: The Holy Sites of Delta Blues, blues guitarist and writer Steve Cheseborough takes us on a similar odyssey; only this one is regional, leading us along the "blue highways" of the Mississippi Delta.

Rich with hallowed Blues place names -- Clarksdale, Greenwood, Tutwiler, Dockery Plantation, Helena, Parchman Farm, Leland, Bentonia and Meridian are only a few of the places named - Blues Traveling is only partly a guide book. But it's a good one, according to those who have ridden the circuit, following the author's detailed travel instructions.

The trip begins and ends in Memphis. Scheduled destinations in Mississippi and Arkansas include birthplaces, graves, jook joints, museums, hotels, historic venues, famed highways, notorious streets, historic record shops and other bluesiana many of us have read about our favorite performers but could never quite locate on a map. Where telephone numbers, names and other travel information are available, Cheseborough helpfully includes them.

The writer conveys his considerable knowledge of Delta history with every entry. Each site - there must be 500 listed -- has at least a short biography of the blues performer associated with the site, along with a discussion of his or her work and significance as a performer. Cheseborough also delves into the subsequent history and mythology of the place and its importance to the reader.

The historically richest locations -- towns like Greenville and Clarksdale -- have entire chapters dedicated to the treasures within their borders. Along the way, the author's concern for traveler comfort expresses itself in safety and etiquette tips.

Cheseborough has no doubt created a perennial by crafting three books in one: guide book, pocket history and paean to the early Delta performers who left us their musical legacy.

The book is also a feast for trivia hounds. Even so-called minor luminaries - including a former "Ikette" -- are represented fully and with dignity. To his credit throughout, Cheseborough keeps a close eye on history and has possibly made some original contributions in this regard.

Guide books have a way of going out of style as soon as another becomes available. The author has anticipated that. This book, with its solid writing, easy directions, fine thumbnail history, excellent maps, good photos and helpful tips is destined, like the blues itself, to stick around a while. - originally published in Blues Revue Magazine, 2003


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