cover image Bub: Essays from Just North of Nashville

Bub: Essays from Just North of Nashville

Drew Bratcher. Univ. of Iowa, $17 (190p) ISBN 978-1-60938-849-2

Journalist Bratcher offers well-tuned notes on country music and growing up near Nashville in his sharp debut. Combining keen observations and tenderness, the author pays homage to singers and songwriters: Lefty Frizzell is “a kind of hillbilly Falstaff” whose “vexed falsetto” was well suited to his songs about heavy drinking and infidelity, Bratcher writes in “It’s Strange the Way the Lord Does Move.” In “To Be at Home Everywhere,” meanwhile, he notes that Dolly Parton has a voice “fit, all at once, for the corner bar, the choir loft, and Carnegie Hall.” “The Ballad of Taylor and Drew” considers Taylor Swift’s music: “That she didn’t have the harrowing backstory or world-weariness of a Loretta Lynn, that she didn’t have the pure voice of, say, a Pam Tillis or a LeAnn Rimes, she compensated for with ardent circumspection about adolescence.” The title essay is a moving look at Bratcher’s tobacco-chewing grandfather who “bucked family tradition” by deciding not to become a miner, and “A Taxonomy of Country Boys” uses tunes by John Denver, Loretta Lynn, and Hank Williams Jr. to get to the root of what a country boy is. Lyricism infuses Bratcher’s own prose, and he strikes the right balance between memoir and criticism. This collection sings. (Nov.)