Monday, August 18, 2014

The Storyteller's Nashville - Audiobook Review

Author: Tom T. Hall
Narrator: Peter Cooper, Tom T. Hall
Unabridged Length: 6 h, 30 m
Published by Blackstone Audio, 2014
Genres: Biography & Memoir, Arts & Entertainment

From the Publisher:
The legendary country music songwriter known as the Storyteller delivers the genre’s most bracing, hilarious, and unique memoir, bringing to life long-gone characters from Nashville’s streets and barrooms and detailing his one-of-a-kind journey in music. This expanded edition of Hall’s original 1979 book includes never-before-heard poems and vignettes—read by the author—and new chapters that bring us up to date with Hall as he sits with President Carter, caps his recording career, quits drinking, ponders his legacy, examines the creative process, and retires from the music industry. “If you want to retire, go ahead,” he says. “Life will still present innumerable occasions for you to go out and make an ass of yourself.”

My Review:
I first saw The Storyteller's Nashville when I was processing new release audiobooks from Blackstone Audio for our Solid Gold Reviewer program at Audiobook Jukebox last week. I thought it would be just another celebrity memoir (not my favorite genre), although I was aware of some of Tom T. Hall’s songs, as some crossed over onto the pop charts in the early 70s. Of course, he also wrote the mega-hit “Harper Valley PTA” that Jeannie C. Riley took to #1 on both the Billboard Hot 100 and the Hot Country Singles charts. In addition, I was aware that Hall was a native of my home state of Kentucky. Still, I wasn’t overly interested in listening to it as I’ve never been a big fan of country music, although I appreciate all music. Anyway, I was on a roll listening to a string of thrillers, with a few more in the queue.

However, that changed when Andi Arndt wrote a piece about this audiobook in the Audiobook Crowd, a Facebook special interest group, on August 12, the release date. I knew she was a narrator, however for this project, she directed and produced the audiobook. She mentioned that Paul Heitsch, another narrator, did the editing and mastering for this project. I knew Andi and Paul through the Audiobook Crowd, so I decided to download the ARC and give it a listen.

Turns out this was not a typical memoir at all. The original 1979 book of the same title was updated to cover an additional 35 years. The meat of each chapter covers Hall’s life experiences in the music business, from his start to his retirement from performing.  

Hall knew what he wanted to do in life from an early age. He wanted to go to Nashville from Olive Hill to be a songwriter. I found it interesting that he never aspired to be a performer. It was evident he didn’t care to be on the road, even though he was for 34 years. He was the reluctant front man, who was very good at what he did; in writing and performance. The Storyteller’s Nashville is the ultimate insider’s view to the country music business of the 60s and 70s, updated to show how it has changed.

Hall always seemed to remember his humble roots in life, growing up in poverty in eastern Kentucky. Most of his songs are about his own life experiences and the folks he’s met along the way. I’m listening to a couple of my favorites that I remember from youth, as I write this review.

The Year That Clayton Delaney Died
Old Dogs, Children and Watermelon Wine

There is original finger picking guitar work written and performed by Thomm Jutz, the engineer for this project, at the beginning of each chapter. I liked it as it fits well and enhances the listening experience.

At the end of each chapter, Hall reads short pieces of his poetry or life observations. The meat of each chapter covers Tom’s life experiences in the music business, from his start to his retirement from performing. The narrator who channel’s Hall’s life is singer/ songwriter/ guitarist/ producer Peter Cooper, Hall’s friend and a good storyteller in his own right. He keeps it moving at a good pace and differentiates characters enough to work well for a memoir. Cooper’s performance gave me the impression that it was Tom T. Hall sharing his life story with me. Both the writing and performance of The Storyteller’s Nashville fit Hall’s storytelling reputation. The book fits perfectly in the audio format. I really enjoyed this one.

A review copy of The Storyteller’s Nashville was provided by Blackstone Audio through the Solid Gold Reviewer program of Audiobook Jukebox.

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