Michael John Dunaway Lifestream

November 19, 2008

Amanda Petrusich profile (for Paste)

Filed under: Culture,Magazine articles by MJD,Music,Paste articles by MJD,Uncategorized — michaeljohndunaway @ 11:51 pm

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My interview/writeup with Amanda Petrusich, author of It Still Moves: Lost Songs, Lost Highways, and The Search for The New American Music, should hit the Paste Atlanta site today or tomorrow. IN the meantime, here’s the unabridged version:

Decatur’s own Wordsmiths Books does a pretty darned good job of hosting events designed to build community, and case in point is this Saturday’s evening twinbill co-sponsored by Paste and Oskar Blues. You get both literary and musical credit for this one.

The musical entertainment will be provided by The Georgia Fireflies, a self-described “old time music band.” Noted for outstanding live shows, the group plays largely in traditional Appalachian modes, albeit with a decidedly alternative twist. If you’re a listener to Georgia Public Television’s “Growing Outdoors,” you know their work from the theme song.

As for the literary portion of the evening, Paste senior contributing editor and New York Times contributor Amanda Petrusich will be making the trip from Brooklyn to read from and discuss her new book It Still Moves: Lost Songs, Lost Highways, and the Search for The Next American Music, a cross-genre hybrid that’s equal parts memoir, travelogue, music history, and music criticism.

It’s obvious that Petrusich sees Americana, like many see hip hop, as a larger cultural movement rather than simply a musical genre. “There is a sort of interesting common ideology,” she agrees. “It’s slippery to define, but there’s historically been a rural, indigenous, acoustic nature to it. It’s sort of organic, front-porch kind of music.”

And it’s that connection to the land, the terroir that produces the music, that was the impetus for her cross-Delta journey. “Everything seems less like a community now, like we’re less oriented to those around us. And part of what those musicians had in the past was – well, they didn’t log on, and they generally didn’t travel. Not that those are bad things, but I wanted to return to that sense of regionalism. It just felt dishonest to try to study that Delta blues music that I love so much without actually going there, like I would be missing the whole key to understanding it.” Plus, she admits, it seemed like a really fun road trip. Petrusich is one of those rare writers that speaks as well as she writes, so it should be a great event.

Did I mention that the evening is also co-sponsored by Oskar Blues, brewers of “the best canned beer in America?” Just because Details magazine said it doesn’t mean it’s not true. And come on, how many times to you get a chance to see a band that cites as influences both The Carter Family and Camper van Beethoven, AND meet an author that Rolling Stone called “a smart, genial Persephone?”

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