In the wake of Ray Charles's new country music box set as well as Lambchop's recent soul dabbling both on their own and with Vic Chestnutt, this reprint of Barney Hoskyns's "country soul" study couldn't have come at a better time. "Say It One Time For the Brokenhearted" was originally published in 1987 and has now been made available in the UK after being out of print for years.
In the new preface for the 1998 edition, Hoskyns describes how the book's focus arose from an interest in the American South combined with his burgeoning awareness of soul music and his recent appreciation of country music:
Listening to Hank Williams or George Jones sing was just as gnawingly, viscerally emotional an experience as was listening to Al Green or Betty LaVette. Listening to Gram Parsons, who covered the two country-soul masterpieces Dan Penn wrote with Chips Moman - 'Dark End of the Street' and 'Do Right Woman - Do Right Man' - brought the whole subject full circle for me.
While the book succeeds as a guide to the finer points of country soul juxtaposing its historical black and white dynamic, it also sheds light on the individuals who made the music so unique. Hoskyns is just as likely to examine a Muscle Shoals session player like Eddie Hinton as he would a country soul originator like Ray Charles. Session players, studios, record labels, songwriters, and performers all receive their due attention.
For those seeking interesting subplots, Hoskyns also traces Nashville's unwitting absorption of "country soul". The Muscle Shoals story begins with a couple of local boys, Rick Hall and Billy Sherrill. While Hall stayed close to home with his Fame operation, Sherrill quickly hightailed it for Nashville. Both had tremendous impact on country and soul with Hall playing the role of the outsider while Sherrill tried to change things from within. In the end, the book keenly observes that these former country music outsiders are now part of today's Nashville establishment.
In the same way that No Depression Magazine has brought fans of Ralph Stanley together with fans of the Replacements, perhaps "Say It One Time For The Brokenhearted" will help to build a similar bridge between the fans of soul and country. For those who are looking to learn a little music history while discovering some truly
soulful music along the way, Barney Hoskyns has provided an invaluable road map.