Book Review: Rock & Roll Books

Amanda Petrusich

Rock & Roll Books

It Still Moves: Lost Songs, Lost Highways, and the Search for the Next American Music

by Amanda Petrusich
Faber and Faber, 290 pp., $25

It figures that someone who's best known as a staff writer for online music magazine PitchforkMedia.com would attempt to "discover" the roots of American music and get it all wrong. Ostensibly an On the Road for the 21st century, It Still Moves finds Amanda Petrusich traveling from her home in Brooklyn to the back roads of Mississippi, Tennessee, West Virginia, and Vermont. She visits Clarksdale, Memphis, and Nashville looking for bits of things that are no longer there, while places such as Austin or New Orleans, where forms of Americana roots she's searching for still exist, are somehow out of reach. Particularly egregious is the way she gets facts wrong. A chapter on alternative country concentrates on Gram Parsons and Uncle Tupelo but ignores the scenes that preceded and surrounded them and badly misses the point of what the music was all about. With a style both annoying and pedantic, It Still Moves engages only when Petrusich writes about freak-folk or the "new, weird America" inhabited by artists Devendra Banhart and Will Oldham. She claims she didn't borrow the title of the book from My Morning Jacket, but, like the rest of what Petrusich has to say, the story just doesn't ring true.

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