Right by Her Roots
Americana Women and Their Songs
Publication Year: 2011
In this day of digital delivery, more and more popular music arrives to its listeners in downloadable bits, giving away very little about where the songs come from or who is behind them. At the same time contemporary popular culture, with its ancestry-excavating Web sites and television shows, reveals that people are craving answers to those very same questions about themselves.
Right by Her Roots is a book for this moment, a thorough and thoughtful exploration of the bodies of work of eight groundbreaking artists who acknowledge, in their songs and in their lives, their relationships to their roots—both musical and personal. Jewly Hight, a highly regarded and spiritually-savvy music writer, delves into the journeys and styles of eight of the most distinctive voices in Americana music: Lucinda Williams, Julie Miller, Victoria Williams, Michelle Shocked, Mary Gauthier, Ruthie Foster, Elizabeth Cook, and Abigail Washburn.
Hight proves there is much to be gained from digging into the oeuvres of singers and songwriters who put something of themselves and their pursuits of meaning into their music. What she unearths, through vivid original interviews and perceptive analysis of their spirits, sounds, and styles—not just their lyrics—is rich insight into what animates their work and how they view and experience the world. Giving music-making women the serious attention they deserve but rarely receive, Right by Her Roots is an especially important and engaging account.
Published by: Baylor University Press
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Review, Title Page, Copyright, Dedication
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I once worked in a bookstore. To a few of my colleagues there, I at Vanderbilt University Divinity School, engaged in weekly dis-a look at what I was working on and offered the simple yet signif-I have found in his spiritually attuned writing about music, as well as for his input and feedback. My thanks also to Juli Thanki, ...
Introduction: The Art of Digging
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I t is May 2005. Twenty-five-year-old Abigail Washburn is fly-ing on a plane to somewhere, quite possibly China, turning over in her mind the debut album she has just recorded—Song of the Traveling Daughter. She realizes there is still one more thing Asian folk flavors, its lyrics in English and Chinese, its cosmo-politan spirit: a little bit of background—her background, the ...
1. Lucinda Williams: Life-and-Death Matters
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...is one of her generation’s most influential purveyors of liter-It is difficult to imagine a discussion of important Ameri-cana songwriting that does not consider the body of work ing artist, making her the veteran of this group. Also, few per-potent a mixture of audience devotion, musical influence, criti-decade, three Top 25 showings on the Billboard 200 chart. There ...
2. Julie Miller: Heart to Heart
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This possessor of a petite, inconsolable voice ventures the offer of her heart tentatively, sighing in small downward arcs above delicately finger-picked acoustic guitar chords. Her offer is really more of a plea: that her heart be received, handled she leans. That plea is also an apology: for her heart’s woefully wounded condition and the helplessness she feels to make it bet-...
3. Victoria Williams: Seriously Free
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In 1993 Victoria Williams’ songs met with a fate that is rare for a recording artist so early in her career and lacking any radio hits to speak of. Big names in the then-ubiquitous genre of alternative rock, and its roots and grunge tributaries, recorded fit for her—titled Sweet Relief. Thanks in no small part to the participation of acts like Pearl Jam, Lou Reed, and Soul Asylum ...
4. Michelle Shocked: True to Conscience
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...industry to follow her convictions, in the process starting her If there are any other contemporary musicians on the planet besides Michelle Shocked who have twice recorded commer-cial albums without knowing it, surely nobody else’s unplanned times bewilderingly, distinctive. The first of Shocked’s inad-young, bitingly witty, politically pointed solo picker and singer ...
5. Mary Gauthier: Outsider Art
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...not at all unfeelingly—speaks of and to people on the social In a way, Mary Gauthier seems very alone onstage as she shushes the people conversing over by the bar. Though there is a fiddler with her, contributing sparse, shadowy bow strokes, she stands with her acoustic guitar at the microphone as a soul the void, grasping for eyes and ears that will reflect back to her ...
6. Ruthie Foster: Don't Be Shy about What You've Got
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Professional singers will often tell the stories of their musical origins a particular way: they have, they aver, always wanted to sing, dreamed of singing, and believed to their souls that they could make their dreams a reality. Their assuredness is meant to convince us that they in themselves had what it took—not just the shadow of a doubt, in the right career. Ruthie Foster’s story ...
7. Elizabeth Cook: Staying Downhome, Getting Somewhere
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A good twenty miles south of Nashville sits a boxy community center with a scuffed wood floor. Inside, a contemporary woman stands at the back wall, facing a dozen or so children and adults, calling dance steps in a sweetly prodding southern accent via a wireless microphone. The dancers follow her instructions in unison, shuffling their toes, kicking and bending their legs, slid-...
8. Abigail Washburn: The Joy of Joining In
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For a singing, songwriting, solo independent recording art-ist who enjoys all the creative freedom in the world, Abigail lunch in an East Nashville cafe, she agrees wholeheartedly with the suggestion that collaboration and mutuality are at the heart of her work. Then she muses aloud, “I do kind of wonder: When am I going to have my diva, like, ‘I know exactly what I want and ...
Conclusion: The Art of Changing
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It is 1990. Lucinda Williams is two years beyond the release of her self-titled third album—an album that strongly sug-gested she was, and would be, a songwriter to be reckoned with. given the job of writing the album’s updated liner notes, Wil-that that she has spent ten additional years living, writing, and singing: “It definitely sounds like I was younger then, it’s more ...
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Ramblin’. Smithsonian Folkways, SF 40042, CD. 1979. Reissued by Lucinda Williams. Rough Trade, 47, CD. 1988. Reissued by Koch, Blessed. Lost Highway, CD. 2011. (At the time of this writing, not “Emily’s Eyes.” On Emily’s Eyes/Cry of the Heart. Broken, 84418-Sweet Relief: A Benefit for Victoria Williams. Thirsty Ear/Chaos/...
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Index of Songs
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Page Count: 200
Publication Year: 2011