Book Reviews
Nov 7, 2006, 12:42

ALL MUSIC GUIDE TO COUNTRY 2nd Edition  edited by Vladimir Bogdanov, Chris Woodstra, and Stephen Thomas Erlewine; Backbeat Books, 2003

In the interest of full disclosure, readers should be aware that in addition to his YF duties this reviewer also writes for, the indispensable online music reference site linked to this nearly 1,000-page directory to country music. Potential bias be damned: it still feels good to recommend this second edition of the guide to anyone wishing to know more about the lives and key recordings of its over 1,200 listed artists in styles ranging from 1920s old-time to today's and Nash-trash pop. With such an informational avalanche, even die-hards will likely glean some nuggets on the music's often notoriously colorful performers, as well as gain a few pointers on records they may have missed. The thing's easy as heck to use: artists are listed alphabetically, with birth/death dates and locations, instruments played, associated sub-genres, bios, and suggested recordings. Also here are essays on related topics like the Grand Ole Opry, country music films, and the evolution of stylistic branches (rockabilly, bluegrass, outlaw, new country, country rock) via “music maps”; lists of essential artists and albums bring up the rear.

There are, however, several omissions of old-time artists we were hoping to find out more about–Frankie Marvin, Lake Howard, Namour and Smith, to name a few (our bio on the last of these enigmatic acts was apparently submitted too late for inclusion here.) Also, the entries on country-influenced artists like Bob Dylan, The Walkabouts (!), and The Byrds (Sweetheart of the Rodeo notwithstanding) could be seen as a stretch by tunnel-visioned country-philes. And, yes, one could argue that the tome is rendered obsolete by its reprisal of what's already accessible at Nevertheless, it's still darn handy to have in portable, fingertip-ready form (please don't try to tell us it's easier to boot up your computer and log onto a Web site than pick up a book and turn its pages—how ”country” is that?) Own this and the Country Music Hall of Fame's Encyclopedia of Country Music, which includes not only performer bios but entries on important producers, labels, studios, and landmarks, and you'll really be set. Pardner.

-Peter Aaron

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