Economic Meltdown, Transitions, and Roots Music: Recent Books on the Nightstand

My last post said More to Come… was going on sabbatical, but in cleaning up the  nightstand today I realized I’d been holding four recent books that I planned to review on the blog.  These represent my eclectic interests (which is what More to Come… is all about) as well as priorities in my life at the moment.  So in the hope that I can now hold to my promise to take the blog on sabbatical,  I’ll pass along thumbnail reviews of the four and put them in my mental “checked off” category.

The first is Michael Lewis’ terrific (as in well-written) and sobering (as in scary) The Big Short:  Inside the Doomsday Machine. This is, by far, the best known of the four and much has been written about the story of three small hedge fund managers and a bond salesman who knew what was coming before the economic meltdown of 2008.

I don’t need to elaborate because Steven Pearlstein said it all in a Washington Post review I highly recommend.  As Pearlstein  writes, “If you read only one book about the causes of the recent financial crisis, let it be Michael Lewis’s ‘The Big Short.'”  Agreed.

Lewis also has an opinion piece in today’s New York Times.  I hope that means he does not intend to stop writing about the causes and outcomes of the financial crisis anytime soon.

The second recommendation is the new book by brothers Chip and Dan Heath entitled Switch:  How to Change Things When Change is Hard. I am a big fan of their first book, Made to Stick which focused on communicating ideas that stick.  We even exchanged some correspondence to discuss a few real-life examples.  Switch is another winning book in the Heath brothers tradition.  It goes beyond the intended “business book” audience to speak to anyone trying to move individuals, families, offices, or organizations to change.

You’ll find this to be a valuable read if you’ve ever thought that “your brain isn’t of one mind.”  But change can come during times of transition, especially when you believe – as the Heath brothers do – that change isn’t an event but a process.

Now for something completely different:  Still Inside – The Tony Rice Story. Rice is – in my humble opinion – the best acoustic guitarist on the planet, and this work covers his entire life’s story and musical development.  Much of it is written in Tony’s own words or comes from remembrances from fellow musicians and friends.  The section on the development of David Grisman’s Dawg music, when Rice left his bluegrass roots and joined the seminal David Grisman Quintet in 1975, is worth the price of the book.  As Tony says, there are now at least 10 guitarists who can play circles around him while playing Rice’s own music, but none have the tone and touch…and none came up with the beautiful combination of roots, bluegrass, jazz, and even classical influences that makes the best of Dawg music still fresh some 30+ years later.  After reading the book, I recalled all those great Rice albums that I had listened to on vinyl and immediately went online and downloaded several CDs worth of music from Tony’s four decades of music.  Backwaters is Tony’s favorite, and with fresh listening I can see why.

The best part of Still Inside?  My copy of the book is inscribed “To my old pickin’ pal, David – Tony Rice.”  Now, there’s not a shred of truth in that, but my grandchildren (should I ever have any) will never know!  Thanks to my friend Leti, who stood in line at Merlefest when I couldn’t go this year and snared the best inscription ever for a guitar lover.  There are so many different phases to Tony’s music which would show his prodigious talent, but I’ve chosen his solo guitar version of Norman Blake’s Church Street Blues in the video below.  Enjoy.

The final book is another roots music work, chronicling one of the most influential musicians of the twentieth century.  Meeting Jimmie Rodgers is an extensively researched work about the influences of Rodgers on a wide variety of pop and roots music of the 20th century.  There are few individuals who know more about this field than Bill Malone, so his blurb carries a great deal of weight:

Until I read this book, I had assumed that the last word had been written on Jimmie Rodgers, the great country blues musician. But, buoyed by Barry Mazor’s keen insights, innovative research, and felicitous writing style, I have become aware of new dimensions of the Singing Brakeman’s influence on American popular music. While Rodgers drew upon a wide array of styles and genres to build his own career, it has been his legacy to shape the sounds and styles of generations of musicians, both in and outside of country music, right on up to our own time.

My father heard Barry Mazor speak and quickly knew I’d enjoy this work.  So I jumped in when my father’s gift arrived, and haven’t been disappointed.

A best seller on the economic meltdown and four people who knew about it beforehand, a thoughtful work on transitions, and two new works on roots music pioneers.  Take your choice, and enjoy.

More to come…

DJB

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