Chapter 16
A Community of Tennessee Writers, Readers & Passersby

Sex and Gasoline and Brilliant Prose

Rodney Crowell’s memoir has the critics singing his praises

Nashville songwriter Rodney Crowell has taken his book on tour, and book reviewers couldn’t be happier: Crowell’s peripatetic life gives them a constantly renewing news hook for a book that’s been out for six months but is still a critical darling. Just last week The Washington Post pronounced Chinaberry Sidewalks a “best book” for summertime reading, calling it a “memoir of Crowell’s childhood that is wistful and profane, heartbreaking and hilarious, loving and angry, proud and self-lacerating.”

The memoir, published in January by Knopf, skirts Crowell’s music career to focus instead on his childhood, and on a portrayal of his parents that The Toronto Star calls “alternatively tender and scathing.” Crowell wishes to linger on the tender, as he recently explained to Nashville journalist Barry Mazor in an interview in The Wall Street Journal: “I would never have told a lot of the dark things about my mother and father that I do if I hadn’t known that, if I were to succeed, by the end of the book I’d get you to love them as much as I did.”

Crowell has spent the past few months (and will spend a few more) touring the country reading excerpts from his book in addition to performing his solo act. It’s an opportunity for his fans to discover the inspiration behind his songs, and then to hear them live and imbued with a more personal meaning. For Crowell, the combination strengthens both talents. “Part of the stamina of writing a book is maintaining a narrative from beginning to end,” he recently explained to Mary Houlihan in the Chicago Sun-Times. “And that can apply to a song cycle. I think now I’m making records that are a little more cohesive and thematically come from the same narrative place.”

For a complete listing of tour dates and locations, visit Rodney Crowell’s website here. For more media coverage click on the following links:

~ Crowell’s performance on NPR’s World Café;

~ an interview on NPR’s Fresh Air;

~ an interview with Crowell in The New York Times;

~ a review of Chinaberry Sidewalks in The New York Times;

~ a review in The Hartford Courant;

~ an interview in The Globe and Mail;

~ a profile in the Toronto Star;

~a feature in The Portland Press Herald.

To read Chapter 16’s review of Chinaberry Sidewalks, click here. For more updates on Tennessee authors, please visit Chapter 16’s News & Notes page, here.

This article was last updated on September 29, 2011.