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Music Gift Guide: Books

Joe Ely road fiction isn't very fictional at all

Reviewed by Nina Hernandez, December 5, 2014, Music

Reverb: An Odyssey

by Joe Ely
Lettersat3ampress, 378pp., $19.95

"You can't take them Lubbock boys anywhere." No, as Reverb: An Odyssey makes clear, those Panhandle boys have to take themselves. Like a faux biography read through beer goggles, Joe Ely spins the not-so-tall tale of Earle and his friends in the summer of 1967, a season of delicious highs interrupted by the threat of shipping off to either Vietnam or prison. Over the months, which melt under Ely's ruthless imagery and pace, Earle wanders across the desert and Texas, searching for an end to the turbulence. The pitfalls of the road serve as a foundation for the songwriter he'll one day become, scratching out his verses from the deepest ones. Not to knock Ely's most recent LP, 2011's Satisfied at Last, but the title cut now rings untrue. This tale shudders with more than just an echo of restlessness. As the book's season draws to a close, and with it our window into Earle's, life, that discontent festers along with those whom the Summer of Love chewed up and spat back in the dust.

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