The Austin Chronicle

All Over the Map, True Heroes of Texas Music

Reviewed by Kevin Curtin, June 16, 2017, Music

Michael Corcoran doesn't love music. Not in the drooling, dogmatic, hero-worshipping sense that sequences the DNA of most critics. Rather, his reverence manifests for characters, stories, and cultural consequences surrounding the art form. The veteran Austinite's post-retirement transition from pundit to historian peaks with a majorly expanded and beautified version of his 2005 book All Over the Map: True Heroes of Texas Music. Music history runneth over in the hands of Corcoran, whose preamble rattles off dozens of Lone Star landmarks that didn't get chapters, from Ornette Coleman to Beyoncé. "There's no way this book can be complete and still be portable," he admits. Often, "Corky" shines his flashlight on nonhousehold names, chief among them being Trinity-born Rebert Harris, who revolutionized Houston/Chicago gospel institution the Soul Stirrers with his intense low-high-low style before quitting at peak fame and giving way to a young unknown named Sam Cooke. Getting his due locally, renowned yodeler Don Walser goes from the ultimate late-bloomer who waited until retirement in pursuing a performance career full time to a crossover country act beloved by and playing amongst punk bands at Emo's and opening for Johnny Cash. There's no Willie Nelson chapter, but his shy, straight-laced sister Bobbie, whose been accompanying her younger brother on piano for 80 years, receives one of the best. All three entries, which include first-person interviews or attempts thereof, make the reader want to immediately set his or her ears upon their music. Meanwhile, All Over the Map illuminates better-known home state stars uniquely. When writing about Houston rap, Corcoran equates master innovator DJ Screw to hip-hop psychedelia. Framing the psychic assault of left-field punks the Butthole Surfers with Apocalypse Now, he becomes an imaginary private investigator hired to track down frontman Gibby Haynes by his former employers at the Peat, Marwick & Mitchell accounting agency, and through the culturally uninhibited perspective of band dog Mark Farner. Other music history books read like Wikipedia entries by comparison. (Book release: Monday 19, 9:30pm, Continental Club with Shinyribs.)

All Over the Map: True Heroes of Texas Music

by Michael Corcoran
UNT Press, 308 pp., $29.95

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