High Lonesome: The American Culture of Country Music by Cecelia Tichi, a professor at Vanderbilt University in Nashville. It’s a semi-interesting book, written in the mid 90s. It should be much better.
She makes a few interesting points, though. Like this one:
Having called country music a previously ‘missing’ piece of the American cultural puzzle, however, I must now backtrack a bit and qualify that point. Country music does not simply complete a picture we already have well in mind. In this project, country music does not simply take its place in a familiar pattern of the arts and literature in the United States from colonial time to the present. This is not a bid to say that country music, too, participates in the artistic vigor of this nation, that country music can join the cultural party, so to speak.
Quite the contrary. This book says that country music, examined carefully, enables us to see vital parts of the national identity that otherwise are hidden, obscured, overshadowed, blacked out in painful self-censorship The book works, not toward the music, but from it, taking the music as a guide into what one writer terms, “the hear of the heart of the country.” The discoveries are surprising.