All Over the Map: True Heroes of Texas Music

Gift guide

Rock & Roll Books

All Over the Map: True Heroes of Texas Music

by Michael Corcoran

University of Texas Press, 176 pp., $19.95 (paper)

"Researching a story about long-dead bluesmen is fueled by random payoffs, much like slot machines and singles bars." That's a line from Austin music scribe Michael Corcoran's new collection on Texas music, All Over the Map. It's also an observation that bears on many critical anthologies – not to mention Map – that attempt to arrange decades worth of disparate articles into a cohesive whole. A longtime ink-slinger with the American-Statesman, Corcoran got his start locally as a critic and columnist at the Chronicle back in the Eighties, so it's possible this paper should take some of the blame for the unevenness of his greatest-hits volume. The profiles cover acts from the world of hip-hop, blues, rock, gospel, Western swing, country, and beyond, and while he professes a special interest in the obscure and forgotten, Corcoran's best stories deal with familiar faces, like Willie Nelson, Ray Wylie Hubbard, and the late Gatemouth Brown. For the most part, Corcoran's workmanlike prose avoids the tricky turns of phrase that too many so-called rock critics prefer to actually talking about the music, but that doesn't save the author from the occasional stinker. ("Houston-based hip-hop is the new punk rock"?!?) The real shame is that there's great potential in a book of Corcoran's "musical detective work" and his dedication to setting the record straight on many long-lost African-American heroes of Texas music.

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