The Big Ballad Jamboree

Donald Davidson, Author, William Pratt, Editor, Curtis W. Ellison, Editor
Donald Davidson, Author, William Pratt, Editor, Curtis W. Ellison, Editor University Press of Mississippi $27 (0p) ISBN 978-0-87805-853-2
Reviewed on: 03/04/1996
Release date: 03/01/1996
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The country music industry is the focus of this charming but long-unpublished only novel by Davidson (1893-1968), written in the mid-'50s. Set in southwest North Carolina in 1949, the novel places a comic spin on the serious subject that Davidson explored as a Fugitive poet and Agrarian essayist: how urbanization can wreak havoc on rural society and the folk arts. Hillbilly music star Danny MacGregor finds himself caught ""betwixt and between"" two worlds as he woos his childhood sweetheart, Cissie Timberlake, former country music singer and now a folk-music scholar. Danny is torn between a lucrative career singing commercial jingles as one of the Turkey Hollow Boys and his determination to win over Cissie at any price-even if it means lugging her recording equipment as she collects ballads from eccentric old-timers. When Cissie discovers Buck Kennedy, a bootlegger with a shoe box full of lyrics, she appears to be on her way to academic superstardom, until a group of hilariously unscrupulous scholars try to plunder her research. Although the novel sometimes seems dated (Danny courts Cissie by defending her honor and buying her Cokes), the colloquial speech and concert scenes ring true. According to an afterword by Curtis W. Ellison and William Pratt, both professors at Miami University, Davidson's novel was believed lost until his granddaughter discovered it; her find is good fortune for fans of country music and for anyone who enjoys a fast-paced read as unpretentious as a genuine mountain ballad. (Mar.)
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