Tuesday, July 3, 2012

My Favorite Books of 2012 (So Far)

It's that time again!  The year is half over (ALREADY!!!) and I'm sharing my lists of my favorite books, albums, and music documentaries of 2012 so far.

Please note I didn't say "the best" of 2012 so far - these are simply my favorites.  These are books, albums, and documentaries released in calendar year 2012 that I've been lucky enough to stumble upon.  There are plenty of older things I've found and loved and I'm quite sure there are plenty of these things released this year that I won't discover for some time yet.  

There's nothing scientific about these lists - no rankings or formulas in judging them.  These are simply the ones I enjoyed enough that I thought they merited alerting a wider audience.

Dig in and enjoy!!  And let me know your thoughts; if you checked any of these out this year, share your opinions.  Or, if you want to submit your favorites of the year so far, post them in the comments section or email dirtyroots@rocketmail.com.


“The Last Holiday: A Memoir” by Gil Scott-Heron

Anyone interested in reading the memoir of the late Gil Scott-Heron already knows the brother has a way with words.  The telling of Scott0Heron’s story in his own words brings a lot of potential. While this book misses some of those opportunities (Heron doesn’t speak of his years of struggling with drug addiction, his incarceration, or dealing with HIV), it achieves other aspects of the potential.  “The Last Holiday” is seasoned with Heron’s unique manner of speaking and what he himself points out as a corny sense of humor.  As a fan of the “revolutionary” side of Gil Scott-Heron, I had hoped for more content in that area.  But, the story of a journey – even one lacking in some areas – by Gil Scott-Heron is still far better than most of what’s out there. 

A broken and wiser-for-it Heron looks back on the path he took as a promising and ambitious young artist struggling along his way, telling the good and bad of the journey, and realizing the toll it took.

Scott-Heron is an artist the likes of which we haven’t seen in a while.  His story, art, and legacy, deserve to be remembered and discovered.

“Satan is Real: The Ballad of the Louvin Brothers” by Charlie Louvin with Benjamin Whitmer

Probably my favorite book of the year so far.

Charlie Louvin was a Grammy nominated member of the Grand Ol Opry and the Country Music Hall of Fame.  As a member of the Louvin Brothers, Charlie racked up twenty-nine Billboard charting singles with his brother Ira. He enjoyed continued success as a solo artist after he split from his brother. Ira was plagued with anger issues and alcoholism and became known for his erratic behavior. 

The Louvin Brothers had a great influence on many artists who came after them. “You can’t find anybody, I don’t think, that was not inspired by them,” said Vince Gill after Charlie Louvin’s death. Cosmic cowboy and alt.country/roots-rock pioneer Gram Parsons said the Louvin Brothers were the Flying Burrito’s favorite artists.

Before Charlie Louvin passed away from pancreatic cancer in early 2011, he began work on this memoir, along with Denver-based author Benjamin Whitmer.

This is an entertaining story of sibling harmony and a hellhound on a trail.  The devil caught up brother Ira.  Charlie, however, fought back against the devil.  The story is told in his own unique, down-home way.  Kudos to Whitmer for helping to construct a great tale while maintaining Charlie’s wonderful voice.

“Dwight Yoakam: A Thousand Miles from Nowhere” by Don McLeese

Based in part on interviewed McLeese conducted with Yoakam, this book captures Yoakam’s truly unique and singular voice; it comes as close as it can to giving you a glimpse into Yoakam’s over-active imagination.

The book details each of Yoakam’s albums, his work with producer/partner Pete Anderson, his split from Anderson in recent years, label woes, and hints at an expected creative resurgence from Yoakam in the coming years.

A bit repetitive at times, the book is enjoyable overall.  As the first biography attempted on Dwight Yoakam, it definitely fills a need.

“When I Left Home: My Story” by Buddy Guy

Buddy Guy is maybe the only “mainstream” blues artist (what I’d call the “slick” guys…as opposed to the artists recorded by the Fat Possum or Broke & Hungry labels) that I can tolerate.  After over half a century he remains true to his wild Chicago blues sounds.

His autobiography reads like his last several excellent albums listen.  It’s familiar, but not repetitive or boring.  Buddy finds his pocket and tells his story.  This quick and easy read achieves the difficult task of feeling like you’re sitting at a bar with Buddy himself listening to him tell these tales in person.  Tales of wild times with Junior Wells, the mentorship of Muddy Waters, of hard times, and sweet success, never taken for granted. 


  1. Ya kinda like bios, huh? ;-)

  2. Yeah, that's pretty much all I read. I've been reading a few short story collections lately, but they're both from last year :)