Wednesday, July 27, 2011

United States of Americana - Kurt B. Reighley

The subtitle of this book is Backyard Chickens, Burlesque Beauties & Handmade Bitters: A Field Guide to the New American Roots Movement. As the lengthy title suggests, it's a book that talks about the growing back-to-our-roots/basics movement that's happening, including people becoming more interested in creating items through sewing, knitting, and other handcrafts; people rediscovering the joys of growing your own food and even canning/pickling/preserving it; people searching out the music and clothing styles of 100 years ago in order to rediscover our past, etc. It was a really good overview that included lots of good practical information and tips, as well as references, so that a reader could go out and experience some of the things quite easily. I have been really wanting to make things with my hands, I enjoy a local bar that has burlesque shows, and I've always been interested in things from the early 20th century, so this book was right up my alley as they say. Highly recommended.

I first heard of this book through one of the people featured in it, Michael W. Haar (aka Mike the Barber), who is indeed a barber specializing in straight-razor shaving as well as a DJ specializing in music from the early 20th century, including of course Nat M. Wills. I don't know him personally, but I do listen to his weekly radio show on East Village Radio, which is broadcast over the internet every Friday morning from 8 to 10 am Eastern time (GMT -5 for those overseas) whenever I can. The shows are also archived, so you can listen to them whenever you like here. I have been able to hear so many amazing records through this show, and I have found lots of artists that I really love now thanks to Mike. He gives lots of good information about the artists he plays too, and he did a birthday tribute to Nat a couple weeks ago that you can listen to here (click on the "Listen" link next to the show for July 8, 2011) over the internet.

Another DJ who does a similar show is Mac of WFMU, who broadcasts on Tuesday nights from 8 - 9 pm Eastern time and has archives here. Mac also did a birthday tribute to Nat this year, with special guest Trav S.D., the author of No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book that Made Vaudeville Famous, a great history of vaudeville that I wanted to reread for this month's theme but I have officially run out of time. The only flaw in this book is that Trav neglected to mention Nat at all, but he made up for it in spades by writing the fascinating and comprehensive liner notes to the Archeophone Records CD of Nat's collected works. But back to Mac - Like Mike, Mac spins 78 rpm records of music, and he has lots of fun special guests on his show. You can even download an awesome ringtone at his page. Both shows are a fun introduction to music that is too often neglected and forgotten but is still entertaining today.

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