Home » Book reviews » CHINABERRY SIDEWALKS: A Review

CHINABERRY SIDEWALKS: A Review

I’ve been a Rodney Crowell fan since 1978. He is, to be blunt, one of the great American songwriters of the last 40 years and I have listened to his music for 1000s of hours. What little guitar playing I learned, I learned so I could play Crowell’s songs. During the 70s and 80s Nashville artists waited for new Rodney songs to record. He has also recorded seventeen LPs (or CDs) since 1978, charting eight Top Ten Country songs, including five consecutive #1 hits, in 1988-89. 

chinaberry1Crowell has written a memoir about his early life growing up in hardscrabble Houston, Texas in the 1950s. Crowell’s former wife, Rosanne Cash, published an amazing memoir last year, Composed, which was less a memoir of her public life, than an intense meditation on how her life influenced her artistically. I was hoping for something like that from Crowell, but not this time out. It is a study of his life as a child, and tells the story of his parent’s life more than his own.

Most reviews are giving the book a home run … I have to differ. First of all, it is written in too much of a folksy, aw shucks style, peppered with down home expressions that most of us heard while growing up, but left behind as we moved out into the world. Crowell and his editor obviously had never read the old adage, “a little bit goes a long way.” It also is a bit clunky at times jumping from chapter to chapter, back and forth in time. There is an endless chapter about attending pentecostal church meetings that wears out its welcome after the first 2000 words, but goes on and on and on.

Here’s hoping Crowell has another memoir in the works that will illuminate his professional career as a songwriter and musician. Until then, I recommend you pull out your copies of Diamonds & Dirt or Fate’s Right Hand and enjoy the music!

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