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Chinaberry Sidewalksby Rodney Crowell
Synopses & Reviews
From the acclaimed musician comes a tender, surprising, and often uproarious memoir about his dirt-poor southeast Texas boyhood.
The only child of a hard-drinking father and a Holy Roller mother, Rodney Crowell was no stranger to bombast from an early age, whether knock-down-drag-outs at a local dive bar or fire-and-brimstone sermons at Pentecostal tent revivals. He was an expert at reading his fathers mercurial moods and gauging exactly when his mother was likely to erupt, and even before he learned to ride a bike, he was often forced to take matters into his own hands. He broke up his parents raucous New Years Eve party with gunfire and ended their slugfest at the local drive-in (actual restaurants werent on the Crowells menu) by smashing a glass pop bottle over his own head.
Despite the violent undercurrents always threatening to burst to the surface, he fiercely loved his epilepsy-racked mother, who scorned boring preachers and improvised wildly when the bills went unpaid. And he idolized his blustering father, a honky-tonk man who took his boy to see Hank Williams, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, and Johnny Cash perform live, and bought him a drum set so he could join his band at age eleven.
Shot through with raggedy friends and their neighborhood capers, hilariously awkward adolescent angst, and an indelible depiction of the bloodlines Crowell came from, Chinaberry Sidewalks also vividly re-creates Houston in the fifties: a rough frontier town where icehouses sold beer by the gallon on paydays; teeming with musical venues from standard roadhouses to the Magnolia Gardens, where name-brand stars brought glamour to a place starved for it; filling up with cheap subdivisions where blue-collar day laborers could finally afford a house of their own; a place where apocalyptic hurricanes and pest infestations were nearly routine.
But at its heart this is Crowells tribute to his parents and an exploration of their troubled yet ultimately redeeming romance. Wry, clear-eyed, and generous, it is, like the very best memoirs, firmly rooted in time and place and station, never dismissive, and truly fulfilling.
"Singer-songwriter Crowell's upbringing in Texas had all the prerequisite elements of a hardscrabble country music story--drinking, guns, fistfights, fierce spankings, infidelity, Pentecostal preachers, fishing, love, hate, laughter, tears, sex, drugs, and of course, music. But Crowell's storytelling abilities and narrative flair elevate this book far above the average music memoir. Born in 1950 to a blue-collar, hard-drinking, country-singing father and religious mother, Crowell lived in Jacinto City, east of Houston, in a shoddily constructed house cursed with leaks, mosquitoes, and vermin. He recalls hurricanes, fishing trips, rock throwing fights, and bow-and-arrow mishaps, all with the enthusiasm of a hyper 10-year-old pedaling at full speed (something he and neighborhood kids did when following the 'Mosquito Dope Truck,' a DDT spraying vehicle that they chased on their bicycles). Crowell touches on his early musical influences, including a Hank Williams concert when he was only two, and an outdoor show by Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Johnny Cash in a thunderstorm, as well as his first time playing music with his father's band. It's not music that's at the heart of this book, however, but his loving and turbulent relationships with his parents and their often strained but deep love for one another. (Jan.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright PWyxz LLC)
Singer-songwriter Crowell reveals his life as the only child of a hard-drinking father and a Holy Roller mother, growing up in frontier Houston. However, at the heart of this memoir is Crowell's tribute to his parents and their troubled yet redeeming romance.
Doc Ebersole lives with the ghost of Hank Williamsnot just in the figurative sense, not just because he was one of the last people to see him alive, and not just because he is rumored to have given Hank the final morphine dose that killed him.
In 1963, ten years after Hank's death, Doc himself is wracked by addiction. Having lost his license to practice medicine, his morphine habit isn't as easy to support as it used to be. So he lives in a rented room in the red-light district on the south side of San Antonio, performing abortions and patching up the odd knife or gunshot wound. But when Graciela, a young Mexican immigrant, appears in the neighborhood in search of Doc's services, miraculous things begin to happen. Graciela sustains a wound on her wrist that never heals, yet she heals others with the touch of her hand. Everyone she meets is transformed for the better, except, maybe, for Hank's angry ghostwho isn't at all pleased to see Doc doing well.
A brilliant excavation of an obscure piece of music history, Steve Earle's I'll Never Get Out of This World Alive is also a marvelous novel in its own right, a ballad of regret and redemption, and of the ways in which we remake ourselves and our world through the smallest of miracles.
The only child of a hard-drinking father and a Holy Roller mother, Rodney was no stranger to either barroom brawls or Pentecostal sermons. Though anguished by their violent predilections, he adored his epilepsy-racked mother, who scorned boring preachers and improvised wildly when the bills went unpaid. And he idolized his blustering father, a honkytonk man who took his son to hear Hank Williams and Johnny Cash, and had him playing drums in his band at age eleven.
Shot through with neighborhood capers, raggedy friends, hilariously awkward adolescent angst, and an indelible depiction of the bloodlines he came from, ChinaberrySidewalks vividly recreates frontier Houston, where icehouses sold beer by the gallon and apocalyptic hurricanes were a fact of life. But at its heart this is Crowell’s tribute to his parents and their troubled yet ultimately redeeming romance. Wry, clear-eyed, and generous, it is, like the very best memoirs, firmly rooted, never dismissive, and truly fulfilling.
About the Author
Born in Houston in 1950, Rodney Crowell has released nearly twenty albums in four decades, with five consecutive number-one hits, and has also worked widely as a songwriter and a producer. His honors include a Grammy, an ASCAP lifetime achievement award, and membership in the Songwriters Hall of Fame. He lives in Nashville.
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