The Austin Chronicle

Summertime Blues

Gonna raise a fuss, gonna raise a holler: rock & roll books

Reviewed by Margaret Moser, June 11, 2010, Music


File Country Music Originals: The Legends and the Lost by Tony Russell (Oxford University Press, 272 pp., $16.95 paper) with Colin Escott's Tattooed on Their Tongues and Josh Alan Friedman's Tell the Truth Until They Bleed under "stories of the almost famous and why they deserve to be remembered." That's glib, but these aren't only worthy, well-researched stories of the lesser-known artists who toiled in the music business last century (Leo Soileau, Adolph Hofner, Hank Snow, et al.). British author Russell does his share of myth-busting. It's long been said that the estimable Patsy Montana landed the first million-selling C&W single by a woman, "I Wanna Be a Cowboy's Sweetheart." Russell kindly points out no such numbers exist but feels it was "a very big hit and leave it at that." Strange to think that The Art of the LP: Classic Album Covers, 1955-1995 by Johnny Morgan and Ben Wardle (Sterling, 400 pp., $29.95) represents the essentially defunct art form of vinyl album cover art. Make no mistake, the vinyl craze is just that – downloads will continue to rule. Until then, this marvelous compilation of album covers over a 40-year Sinatra-to-Nirvana period is a dazzling exhibit of what the square format provided for so many years. Covers were as much a part of the package as the music, and many images still resonate, iconic and groundbreaking – you still couldn't get the English cover of Jimi Hendrix's Electric Ladyland into a Wal-Mart today. Rock Paper Show: Flatstock Volume One by Geoff Peveto, Paula Scher, Craig Finn, and John Foster (Soundscreen Design, 312 pp., $59.99) is the coolest coffeetable book on poster art since The Art of Rock. The millennial emergence of Flatstock reinvigorated the poster renaissance of the 1990s, and its artistic muscle is spread throughout the fine-quality stock and 566 color images including the many and varied Flatstock posters. It's a glorious thing to celebrate yourself, and Flatstock does giddily in this retrospective of the 20 shows featured since its founding by Frank Kozik in 2004. With chapter intros by insiders, advisers, printers, and, oh yes, collector fans, it's a visual feast in eye-popping splendor and plenty of Austincentricity (the Chronicle's Raoul Hernandez and Marc Savlov are contributors) to go around. Like those cities such as Seattle and San Francisco, where a vital music scene fostered a strong poster scene, the importance of Flatstock is in providing the younger generation of artists – visual, screenprinters, letterpress, and stencil – with context and future.

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