Wednesday, August 30, 2023

Review: The Motel Cowboy Show by Josh Crutchmer

 Genre: Non-Fiction


“From the Sawtooth Mountains of central Idaho, where phone service still may not reach, to the bustle of Austin, centerpiece of the Texas Music Scene, the influence of mountain roots music is real, lasting, and chronicled by Josh Crutchmer. This highly-anticipated sequel to Red Dirt: Roots Music, Born in Oklahoma, Raised in Texas, At Home Anywhere ties mountain originals like Pinto Bennett to cowboy poets like Baxter Black and Chris LeDoux, and follows their trail down every highway and back road they chose. The rise, heyday and pending touring retirement of Reckless Kelly is covered extensively, bouyed by the humor and introspection of Willy and Cody Braun, their musical upbringing and the larger-than-life influence they forged wherever they made music. The book also puts you in the seats at the venerable Red Rocks Amphitheater for the 2022 comeback concerts by the Turnpike Troubadours, supported by Reckless Kelly and Shovels & Rope. You'll also get the complete story of the Braun Brothers Reunion and its lasting impact on the community of Challis, and read about the determination of Micky and the Motorcars to carve their own legacy. The Motel Cowboy Show will inform as much as it entertains, and it will leave readers casting eyes toward the stages and studios of the American West.”


Currently the print planning editor at the New York Times, Josh Crutchmer has a long history in journalism having worked for several newspapers around the country before landing at the Times. During that time his specialty has often been  music journalism which he still does on the side, reporting at times for various newspapers as well as Rolling Stone magazine. He has one prior book, Red Dirt, a book about music with its roots in Oklahoma. For more, visit his website.


As with Josh Crutchmer’s last book, Red Dirt, that covered the history and various connections involved in the development of the Red Dirt music scene that originated in Oklahoma and spread from there, this book does the same for some of the music with roots in the mountains of the western US. As with Red Dirt each chapter of the book stands alone. This can feel disjointed if you expect one chapter to flow into the next and sometimes results in something that was covered in one chapter getting repeated in another one when the information is needed as background in both places, but for the most part if you understand the goal was for each chapter to stand alone, it is no big deal.

If you’re a fan of one or more of the musical acts mentioned in the description and want to know more about their history and their influences, reading this is a no-brainer. If you read and enjoyed Red Dirt, same story.

Some chapters are question and answer chapters, what he calls “roundtables,” with multiple musicians. Some are a run down of a festival with a brief summary of those who played, impressions, and how they connect to each other and the overriding theme, with some glimpses behind the scenes. Yet other chapters are what you might expect, a summary of the history of one or more of the musical acts significant in this subgenre and how they connect to others. As a fan of many of the bands and the genre of music covered, I knew some of the history, certainly more of it than I did when I read Red Dirt, but I learned a lot more. One of the festivals that were discussed in a chapter was one I’d attended, and it helped me appreciate the experience more while also reliving it to some degree. Other festivals that I didn’t attend, I got to experience vicariously through the author’s eyes. A fun read that has left me wondering whether Crutchmer has another music scene he’s planning on documenting in his next book.

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK


A small amount of adult language.

Format/Typo Issues:

No significant issues.

Rating: ***** Five Stars

Reviewed by: BigAl

Approximate word count: 60-65,000 words

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