"Country Roads: How Country Came To Nashville" attempts to trace the history and development of country music. Several aspects set it apart from previous histories. Author Brian Hinton goes back to the Old World origins of the music and follows it arrival and evolution in the New World. He also focuses much space on more recent developments, and adds some interesting observations on Alt Country and the country/rock hybrids of the last thirty years, without being dismissive or condescending.
To Hinton, country music is a contimuum, a musical form that is constantly changing and evolving, adding new styles and elements that alter the growth and direction of the genre. Many writer (c.f. Bill Malone) feel that they have to build figurative "walls" around country to music as if to protect it from the encroachments. Hinton seems to feel that these elements add to, rather than threaten, country. He also seems to make an effort to understand the appeal of those artists that he doesn't particularly enjoy. Hinton's view of country music is one of the most inclusive definitions I have ever encountered, and I think he makes his points well. He also looks for the influence of country on other musical styles, some of which could not be any further from Nashville, geographically and philisophically. Hinton scores points here, too.
Hinton is British and, unlike many English writers who are analyzing American popular culture, he doesn't
feel the need to denigrate those things that he doesn't completely understand. He clearly loves this music, unlike, say Nick Tosches, the author of the overrated and condescending "Country." Unlike the often bitter and self-serving Tosches, Hinton's opinions are thoughtful and original.
Despite occasionally sloppy editing (its obvious that Hinton dicated the text, and whoever transcribed was clearly less than familiar with the subject matter)and a few glaring factual errors, this is a useful and entertaining work. This book is a good read for those who want a clearer understanding of country music in the year 2000. The sections on the Alt Country movement are well-written and more thought-provoking than previous writings on the subject. Most importantly, "Country Roads" is fun reading for the country music fan and neophyte alike.