I’m a sucker for encyclopedic music books, especially ones that point to dusty shelves of untapped vinyl you were only ever half aware of. Rob Young’s Electric Eden has been just that for me this summer. Imagine England’s Dreaming relocated to a pastoral Albion and you’re pointed in the right direction. Subtitled ‘Unearthing Britain’s Visionary Music’, Young plots a course through the roots of British folk song tradition, from Cecil Sharpe through to a ’60s/’70s folk heyday (think Fairport, Nick Drake, John Martyn, The Incredible String Band) and onwards to those modern day musicians seeped in the lore and legend of our country and countryside (the arch drude himself, Julian H Cope, gets much deserved props here). I’m currently on my sixth album purchase because of this book. The guy should be getting a kickback from Amazon, he really should.
(PS as a really good primer, Rob Young has written a brilliant cover feature for the latest issue of Sight and Sound on movies from the era that the book pivots around – “The Films of Old, Weird Britain”. Well worth checking out.)
One of the most impressive and enjoyable novels I have read this year is ‘The Ballad of Trenchmouth Taggart’ by M Glenn Johnson. It’s the tale of a man born into the mining community of West Virginia in 1903 who as a result of the coal wars is turned outlaw and whose story becomes, quite literally, the story of the blues as you follow him through key events of 20th century America. It’s a hardcore tale on a grand scale and it’s told well, with the characters being alive and funny and believable whilst riding breathtakingly unexpected – and sometimes farcical – twists and turns.
My copy of Johnson’s latest novel, ‘The Marrowbone Marble Company’, just published in the States, cannot arrive quickly enough.