Chinaberry Sidewalks: A Memoir
[Rating: 3.5 stars]
Legendary singer-songwriter Rodney Crowell’s hardscrabble beginnings in 1950s rough-and-tumble Houston will sound familiar to anyone conversant with life in that Gulf Coast flood plain: In this memoir he recalls an upbringing shaped by humidity, guns, religion, hurricanes, mosquitoes, cockroaches, and country music. When Crowell was a mere two-year-old, his semi-professional musician father took him to see Hank Williams. By age 11, he was drumming in his father’s honky-tonk band. Crowell’s depiction of his father’s drunken outbursts at home is unflinching, as are his observances of his mother’s battle with epilepsy. And despite an occasional tendency toward wordiness and overstretched similes (his father “made spontaneous human combustion seem as cool and refreshing as ice fishing in Minnesota”), Crowell brings the same flair for language and imagery to Chinaberry Sidewalks found in his classic countrypolitan songs.