At Home He's a Tourist

He fills his head with culture/ He gives himself an ulcer.

Thursday, January 22, 2004


I reckon I'll buy this one, since, besides the uniformly good reviews, the topic should be one of interest to a Baptist university with a large Church Music program...

Goff, James R. Close Harmony: A History of Southern Gospel. Chapel Hill, $45.

Notes: “the first serious historical work on its topic…One of the strengths of this historical chronicle is that it highlights the tensions in the gospel music industry and the difficulties faced by southern quartet singers since the 1960s…[but] amateur activity needs to be given sustained attention…Bluegrass gospel is also largely missing from this book…I hoped for fuller treatment of the paradox of gospel music as entertainment…Among the book’s weaknesses is an excessive amount of poor writing…the author misconstrues the significance of shape notes…[Goff] has done all students of American popular music a service by writing a book which, while it will not be all things to all readers, tells the story of the professional southern white gospel groups in a way that has not been done before.” American Historical Review: “Goff tells the story of Southern gospel, and he tells it well. The scholarship in this book is rock solid. The notes are extensive and document key sources, both primary and secondary…The combination of academic research and good journalistic footwork rounds out the book and makes it relevant to a wide readership…Goff has managed to make the worlds of academe and gospel music a little more comfortable with each other in this history of southern gospel. Goff’s book does an excellent job.” Journal of Southern History: “Goff’s affinity for the genre gives the reader a sense of its powerful appeal. Goff also gives important insights into one of the most intriguing aspects of southern gospel music, its existence as both a spiritual and an entrepreneurial phenomenon….One of the strengths of the book is its superb endnotes, many of which provide what amounts to a primer on the musicology of southern gospel. Goff, thus, deals effectively on both the most minute and the most wide-ranging levels of this important subject.” Church History: “an important contribution to the scant scholarly literature on the subject of gospel music…Goff’s riveting account of the internecine struggle within the Gospel Music Association during the 1970s and 1980s is especially compelling…Close Harmony is meticulously detailed, richly illustrated, and thoroughly documented…Goff’s prose is crisp and vivid…an important reference guide for ethnomusicologists, music historians, and others.” North Carolina Historical Review: “the first scholarly history…deftly blends cultural, social and religious history with a solid understanding of the business aspects that often drove this genre’s development…” Arkansas Review: “the first comprehensive study…comprehensive and inclusive…After reading Close Harmony the reader will not only better understand Southern gospel’s musical predecessors and descendants but also the theological beliefs and cultural attitudes that shaped the music.” Georgia Historical Quarterly: “Goff’s ability to combine scholarly detachment and a fan’s commitment to the music and its heritage is impressive. His approach, and the book that results, is both balanced and comprehensive…an excellent account. Carefully prepared, it is a treasure trove for both primary and secondary sources. Goff has also assembled a comprehensive list of relevant literature that will prove extremely helpful to future important addition to American social and cultural history.” Library Journal: “well-researched…a well-written account that engages despite its somewhat specialized focus. Recommended for gospel fans, social historians, and music libraries in the South.” Virginia Magazine of History and Biography: “a comprehensively researched, richly detailed cultural saga, one that both neophytes and those raised in the tradition will benefit from reading…a thorough and much-needed analysis of the genre’s roots…a detailed discography is conspicuously absent. Similarly, an accompanying CD ‘soundtrack’ would have been most welcome. These caveats aside, Goff has made an extremely important contribution to vernacular music history.” H-Net: “unparalleled…could have benefited from a more detailed analysis of these tensions. Some important questions remain unanswered…encyclopedic but suffers somewhat from a lack of interpretation..Overall, though, this does not detract from Goff’s path-breaking work. His copious endnotes and thoughtful narrative shed light on a topic that until now has remained unknown. Future works on southern gospel will surely use Close Harmony as a starting point.”


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home