Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘country music’

Hello, friends. I’ve been across the country and back again – to Arizona and California to see some friends. Here’s what I have been reading:

Iced in Paradise, Naomi Hirahara
Leilani Santiago is trying to help keep her family’s shave ice shack afloat. When a young surfer – her father’s protege – ends up murdered, Leilani becomes an amateur sleuth as well. A fun cozy mystery where the Hawaiian setting really shines. I reviewed (and enjoyed) the sequel earlier this year.

Her Country: How the Women of Country Music Became the Success They Were Never Supposed to Be, Marissa Moss
Women have long been a mainstay of country music, but they’ve been all but pushed out of radio play in the last 20 years. Veteran journalist Moss follows the careers of Maren Morris, Kacey Musgraves, Mickey Guyton and others like them who are blazing a new path for women in the genre. I am forever loyal to my ’90s country badass women, and I loved this fierce, unapologetic, brilliantly researched account of women (of multiple generations) who are making their own music, their own way. To review for Shelf Awareness (out May 10).

All the Queen’s Men, SJ Bennett
I loved this second mystery featuring Queen Elizabeth as a behind-the-scenes sleuth. When an unpopular member of her staff turns up dead and a cherished painting goes missing, it seems unlikely they could be connected, but the Queen is convinced they are. With the help of her assistant private secretary, Rozie Oshodi, she investigates discreetly while still managing political and court business. A well-done mystery plot with some sharp social commentary, set quite deliberately in 2016.

Jackie & Me, Louis Bayard
Before Jacqueline Bouvier became that Jackie, she was a young socialite with journalistic ambitions – and the young congressman from Massachusetts asked his best friend, Lem Billings, to court her on his behalf. This was a fascinating fictional account of Jackie and Lem’s friendship, though it made me sad how much they both gave up for Jack and how little he appreciated it. To review for Shelf Awareness (out June 14).

Adult Assembly Required, Abbi Waxman
Laura Costello wants to believe she’s a full-fledged adult – which to her means being able to handle everything on her own. But when she moves to L.A. for grad school, her apartment catches fire – plus she’s still struggling with the traumatic effects of a serious car accident. Waxman’s latest novel explores the challenges of leaving the nest while still loving your family, and learning to both stand up for yourself and ask for help. I loved this warmhearted story, which includes cameos from lots of familiar characters. To review for Shelf Awareness (out May 17).

The Bangalore Detectives Club, Harini Nagendra
Newlywed and budding mathematician Kaveri Murthy is adjusting to married life in Bangalore, when a man is murdered at a dinner she’s attending with her doctor husband. Shocked and also intrigued – especially when several more attacks follow – Kaveri plunges into solving the mystery. An engaging cozy mystery set in India under the Raj, with charming characters and some insight into the friction between British colonists and Indian locals. To review for Shelf Awareness (out May 3).

Most links (not affiliate links) are to my local faves Trident and Brookline Booksmith. Shop indie!

What are you reading?

Read Full Post »

Happy July, y’all. I can’t believe we’re here. We always seem to wait forever for summer in New England (certainly this spring dragged, for several reasons), and then when it’s here, it feels rich and fleeting. The trees are lush, the roses and daylilies are showing off, and I’m cranking up the country music on my morning runs. Though, really, I’ve been doing that for months.

I was raised on country music, as you may know (or assume) if you know that I grew up in West Texas. My hometown had a half-dozen country radio stations, and my parents had a stack of George Strait cassettes that we nearly wore out on our long summer road trips. (I shocked a colleague at Harvard, years later, by telling him – and I am still confident in this assertion – that I could probably sing, on demand, at least 50 of George’s 60 number one hits.)

George was and is the king of country as far as my family is concerned, and I love a lot of his male compatriots: Alan Jackson, Brooks and Dunn, Randy Travis, the guys who sang in Alabama and Diamond Rio. I have a soft spot for Brad Paisley (especially “She’s Everything”) and I still adore Garth Brooks. But this year, I’ve been spending my miles mostly listening to the women of country music.

I loved them all as a child and teenager: Reba, Martina, Trisha, Shania, the women of the Dixie Chicks (now the Chicks) and SheDAISY. I marveled at LeAnn Rimes (what a prodigy!) and based my high school graduation speech around Lee Ann Womack’s “I Hope You Dance.” I can still sing you most of Faith Hill’s hits from that era, and Deana Carter’s dreamy debut album takes me right back to middle school.

I’ve never stopped loving country music, but I did stop listening to it for a while. I grew older, my tastes expanded to include folk music and Broadway show tunes and so much Christian pop music (bless it), as well as jazz and big band and the classical stuff we sang in choir. I left Texas, stopped driving to work (and thus listening to the radio as often), and married a fellow Texan who was a real snob about country music.

With all that, I’ve been on hiatus from these ladies for a decade or so. But I’ve been tiptoeing back: I heard the Highwomen at Newport Folk 2019 and fell completely in love. Last spring, I loved Mary Chapin Carpenter’s “Songs from Home” on Instagram during quarantine, and a few weeks in, I went down a Jo Dee Messina rabbit hole. This winter, in the depths of job-hunt woes and loneliness, I rediscovered Martina McBride. And since then, I have been pounding down the harbor walk singing along to classics like “Heads Carolina, Tails California” and “Take Me As I Am” and “She’s in Love with the Boy” and “Independence Day.”

These songs are a particular brand of badass feminism: it wears mascara and uses (a lot) of hairspray, and it doesn’t let a man (or anyone else) tell it what to do. It celebrates grit (“I’m a Survivor”) and individuality (“Wild One”), and it champions both true romance (“Perfect Love,” “We Danced Anyway,” “Wild Angels”) and the need to leave sometimes (“Ready to Run,” “Consider Me Gone”). There are power ballads and tender love songs; there are girl-power anthems and some good old-fashioned honky-tonk. These songs reconnect me to the teenager I was, but they are helping me shape and discover the woman I am now.

Read Full Post »

Powerhouse voice in a 5’2” body. I’ve loved her music for years but am rediscovering her soulful ballads, badass girl-power anthems and heartfelt love songs. Strong Southern women are my truth-tellers.

Read Full Post »

Since October, Allison and I have traded themed collections of music we love: jazz, ‘90s country, soulful female singer-songwriters.  These voices keep me company and help me believe we’ll get through.

Read Full Post »

“Nineties country is my love language,” I joked last week, after making yet another reference to a song I loved as a teenager. I grew up on steel guitar and driving fiddle, on ballads meant for long road trips and hot sunny days with the car windows down. I was married for years to a fellow Texan who turned up his nose at country music, but I have never stopped loving it. And this morning, for the third time this week, my running playlist was the Jo Dee Messina Spotify station.

I’d almost forgotten about Messina until a few weeks ago, when I went digging for the lyrics to her 1998 hit single “Stand Beside Me.” Since then, I’ve happily fallen down the rabbit hole of her straight-talking anthems about love and loss and standing up for herself.

Perhaps it’s no surprise: strong southern women are my truth-tellers, which is why I’m loving Mary Chapin Carpenter’s Songs from Home on Instagram these days (and why I was so jazzed to write about Mary Gauthier when she came to Berklee last fall). This pandemic coincides with the one-year anniversary of deciding to leave my marriage, and build a new life for myself, on my own. It has been both scary and exhilarating, and I’ve needed the voices of all my heroines: my real-life girlfriends, the literary women I love, and the singer-songwriters who speak the words written on my heart.

I’m thrilled to have rediscovered Messina as part of this chorus. And as summer approaches, you can sometimes find me pounding down the East Boston Harborwalk humming along to “Bye Bye,” “Heads Carolina, Tails California” or – most especially – “I’m Alright.”

Read Full Post »