Whispering Pines: The Northern Roots of American Music ... From Hank Snow to the Band

Jason Schneider

Reviewed by Jim Caligiuri, Fri., June 11, 2010

Summertime Blues

Whispering Pines: The Northern Roots of American Music ... From Hank Snow to the Band

by Jason Schneider
ECW Press, 350 pp., $28.95

Canadian musicians have played an important part in shaping American music. With Whispering Pines, Jason Schneider deftly explores this influence, presenting minibiographies of some of the best known and slightly obscure Canadians, mostly singer-songwriters, who have commingled with artists from the United States. At times the latticework becomes a little thick, but Schneider's overview of the careers of Leonard Cohen, Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, Gordon Lightfoot, the Band, Anne Murray, Bruce Cockburn, Hank Snow, the McGarrigle sisters, and Ian & Sylvia are informed and comprehensive enough to make for an engrossing and enlightening read. Tidbits, like the fact that Southern rock's Charlie Daniels, just a fiddler at the time, was a member of Cohen's band in 1970 or that the careers of the stridently political Cockburn and middle-of-the-road songstress Murray were intertwined, are sprinkled throughout. A great deal of time is spent on the Band thanks to its time with both Arkansan Ronnie Hawkins, as the Hawks, and Bob Dylan, bringing country, blues, and folk to rock & roll in a fashion that still reverberates, while also examining the reasons behind the Band's Last Waltz. The author's thesis that there are no borders in music is one he presents lucidly and stylishly.

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