Book Review: Rock & Roll Books
Reviewed by Doug Freeman, Fri., Dec. 6, 2013
Progressive Country: How the 1970s Transformed the Texan in Popular Cultureby Jason Mellard
University of Texas Press, 276 pp., $29.95
As iconic as the cosmic cowboy image has become to understanding Austin, or even the larger mythology of Texas, few cultural histories have unpacked its real significance. More often, the communion of "hippies and rednecks" at the Armadillo World Headquarters serves as shorthand for the contradictory nature of greater "Texanness" that collided full force in the Seventies. This complicated conception spins in an eddy of big oil, counterculture, political influence, and, as the author introduces in this necessary history, "the oppositions of urban and rural, modern and traditional, and the politico-cultural valences of left and right." Assistant director of the Center for Texas Music History, Jason Mellard provides an accessibly academic companion and perspective to Jan Reid's 1974 landmark, The Improbable Rise of Redneck Rock, with Austin serving as a microcosm of the "progressive re-visioning of 'the Texan,'" synthesized in the cultural imagination with the state's rooted conservatism and values. Mellard explores its international influence as well, expertly threading close readings of the songs, literature, speeches, and moments that wove the tapestry of our fiercely complicated and contradictory Texan identity.