- All Over the Map: True Heroes of Texas Music by Michael Corcoran
By Michael Corcoran. Denton: University of North Texas Press, 2017. 308 pp. Illustrations, index. $29.95 cloth.
In this Texas music almanac, Corcoran brings together the life stories, careers, and anecdotes of forty-two musicians and producers with strong ties to the Lone Star State. Although this is not an academic book and therefore does not have a theoretical framework, it manages to capture over a century of history of Texas music, drawing on testimonials and other primary [End Page 213] sources as well as personal experience and—of course—music itself.
Corcoran maps out the networks established through musicians’ journeys and migrations to and from Texas, exploring the richness of Texas sounds and their influence on the conformation of several musical styles, including electric blues, gospel, and honky-tonk, to name a few. Through musicians’ stories, Texas is presented as a land of song influenced by the sounds of both near and far places that reached the southern state through the historic movements of peoples: from neighboring New Orleans jazz and south-of-the-border rancheras, to German and Czech polkas and yodels. We can further deduce the geographic trajectories of Texas music through Corcoran’s chronicles of the travels of artists to the music industry metropolises of the United States, namely Los Angeles, New York, and—given the centrality of country music in the book—Nashville.
While Corcoran’s subjects encompass a wide array of musical styles (he has chapters on the Geto Boys and DJ Screw, and their “Dirty South” sound, as well as on Selena, the queen of Tex-Mex and unofficial queen of cumbia), most of the musicians he writes about seem to fall into typically southern music styles, like the blues, gospel, country, and their multiple and complex subgenres.
Corcoran’s craft as a newspaper columnist shines through and, alongside the many black-and-white photographs, makes the book an easy and enjoyable read. In spite of this, at times it can be somewhat confusing and hard to follow given the number of names dropped in the space of a few pages (not unlike Tolkien’s epics or García Marquez’s novels); however, this is necessary to achieve the nuanced descriptions of the life and times of these “true heroes of Texas music” and their wonderful works.
Throughout All Over the Map Corcoran manages to open up a window to a world of music, both tragic and beautiful, that is largely unknown to those of us who are outsiders to Texas and its musical hinterland. What is more, he shines a light on many overlooked and forgotten musicians who, throughout their lives, contributed greatly to music in Texas and beyond.