Using as its epigraph and unifying principle Luc Sante’s notion that “Every human being is an archeological site,” Field Recordings from the Inside provides a deep and personal examination of the impact of music on our lives. Bonomo effortlessly moves between the personal and the critical, investigating the ways in which music defines our personalities, tells histories, and offers mysterious, often unbidden access into the human condition. The book explores the vagaries and richness of music and music-making—from rock and roll, punk, and R&B to Frank Sinatra, Nashville country, and Delta blues—as well as the work of a diverse group of artists and figures—Charles Lamb, music writer Lester Bangs, painter and television personality Bob Ross, child country musician Troy Hess, and songwriter Greg Cartwright.
Mining the often complex natures and shapes of the creative process, Field Recordings from the Inside is a singular work that blends music appreciation, criticism, and pop culture from one of the most critically acclaimed music writers of our time.
It’s so easy for critics to spend all their time worrying over how pop music gets made—the granular technical details, what a song or record means in its various historical or social contexts. Joe Bonomo understands those things, but still returns to what’s arguably the most crucial component of art: how it makes us feel and what it does to our lives. Field Recordings from the Inside is a beautiful, revelatory book about what it means to be a human with headphones on.
Part memoir, part criticism, Field Recordings From The Inside maps the ways music can define and shape our lives—which, in Joe Bonomo’s case, encompasses local bands and Top 40 one-hit wonders, Hank Williams and Frank Sinatra, everything that gets inside if your ears are open enough.
Field Recordings From The Inside is the first book I’ve encountered that expertly blends my two favorite kinds of writing: music criticism and the literary essay. Joe Bonomo combines sound, the self, and the \xE2\x80\x9Croll and prank\xE2\x80\x9D of an essayistic mind to create a book that skates between discussions of history, records, coming of age, literature, relationships, and great rock-and-rollers. This book is a thoughtful and sonorous pleasure from start to finish.
What is music? More importantly, what isn’t music? In Field Recordings from the Inside, Joe Bonomo looks at family and faith, country and culture, Mississippi and Memphis, life and death, with sharp eyes (and ears) and a strong heart, shining a light on the past to help arm the present to make sense of the future. If you want beautiful writing in the service of powerful emotions, you want this book.
[Bonomo] looks at the ways music influenced and underscored events throughout his life. The best essays here extend that gaze beyond his own life and into those of other artists and their audiences . . . [a] great collection.
Bonomo’s passion for his subject matter is undeniable, and the verve with which he writes about music is endearing.
The writings he collects for this mix tape of memories are deep cuts . . . That is the appeal of this genre-spanning collection, along with the mix tapes: no special musical expertise is necessary for appreciating Bonomo’s point of view or the richly described nostalgia. Just drop the needle, hit play, scroll, or turn the page and enjoy.
The collection’s 18 essays do what the best music writing is supposed to do—they make the reader care, regardless of whether they enjoy, or are familiar with, the material being written about; I was mostly willing to follow Bonomo anywhere he wanted to go.