New Books Spotlight Hank Williams, Haggard and the Coens

Attention holiday shoppers! There are lots of country music-related books coming your way during the next few months. Here’s a rundown of titles for the fall quarter and beyond as reported to Publishers Weekly.

For country traditionalists, there are two studies of Hank Williams and one of Merle Haggard . Colin Escott and Kira Florita have compiled and annotated Hank Williams: Snapshots From the Lost Highway (Oct. 16, Da Capo Press). The words-and-pictures book is a tie-in with Timeless, the all-star tribute to Williams issued Sept. 25 on Lost Highway Records.

In January, the University Press of Mississippi will publish Bill Koon’s Hank Williams, So Lonesome, which promises new research and perspectives on the importance of the country/pop legend. Hal Leonard Publications will deliver Don Cusic’s Merle Haggard — The Lyrics in November. The prolific country chronicler looks at Hag’s topsy-turvy life through the prism of his own songs.

Peter Doggett inspects one of country music’s most vigorous subtypes in Are You Ready for the Country: Elvis, Dylan, Parsons and the Roots of Country Rock (Aug. 28, Penguin). For the more omnivorous music fan, Da Capo Press has rolled out (Oct. 2) Da Capo Best Music Writing 2001: The Year’s Finest Writing on Rock, Pop, Jazz, Country, and More.

Two performers on the fringes of country have authored humor books. On Sept. 14, Rutledge Hill Press debuted Robert Earl Keen’s Merry Christmas From the Family (which contains a CD single). Keen’s fellow Texan and perennial hell-raiser takes his turn at America’s funnybone with Kinky Friedman’s Guide to Texas Etiquette, or How to Get To Heaven or Hell Without Going Through Dallas-Fort Worth (October, Cliff Street).

Actor Dennis Weaver made a valiant run at country music in the early ‘80s with records that incited more derision than delight. He recounts his otherwise impressive career in All the World’s a Stage (October, Hampton Roads). While not musicians themselves, the Coen Brothers provided country music one of its most talked-about and bestselling albums of the past two years via their movie O Brother, Where Art Thou? Peter Korte and Georg Seesslen offer a study of their work and influence in Joel and Ethan Coen (October, Limelight Editions).

“Danny Boy” didn’t make its mark originally as a country song, but plenty of country stars have recorded it. In fact, it gave Ray Price a Top 10 hit in 1967. Malachi McCourt renders a closeup of this sentimental favorite in Danny Boy: The Legend of the Beloved Irish Ballad (December, Running Press).

We aren’t sure how many country singers turn up in the pages of Donald F. Reuter’s Songbird: A Visual History of Women in Music (December, Universe), but we’re assured that the luminous Emmylou Harris is one of them. The book has more than 150 portraits, album covers and concert shots.

Scheduled for next February is an inside history of the record company that helped make stars of Harris, Randy Travis , Dwight Yoakam , Travis Tritt , Faith Hill and hundreds of others. How many of these are mentioned, we don’t know. Written by Stan Cornyn and Paul Scanlon, the book is titled Exploding: The Highs, Hits, Hype, Heroes, and Hustlers of the Warner Music Group (HarperEntertainment).

HarperEntertainment is also releasing a reprint edition in December of the Ralph Emery and Patsi Bale Cox tome, 50 Years Down a Country Road.