- Narrated by: Jaime Lincoln Smith
- Length: 7 hrs and 50 mins
- Release date: 08-08-23
Highways and Heartaches By Michael Streissguth AudioBook summary
In this enlightening and entertaining book, experience the evolution of country music, from the 1970s Appalachian hillbilly chitlin’ circuit to the 1980s country music boom that paved the way for modern Americana.
In a dim clearing off a county road in Kentucky sits a sagging outdoor stage buried in moss and dead leaves. It used to be the centerpiece of carnival-like Sunday afternoons where local guitarists, fiddlers and mandolin players hammered out old mountain ballads and legends from the dawn of country music performed their classic hits. Most of the musicians who showed up have long since passed, but Nashville stars Ricky Skaggs and Marty Stuart survive. They were barely teenagers in the early 1970s when they visited this stage in the care of legends Ralph Stanley and Lester Flatt, respectively. Skaggs and Stuart followed their bosses to dozens of stages throughout Appalachia and deeper into the American southland. They were the children, absorbing the wondrous music and strange dramas around them as they became innovators and living symbols of country music.
Highways and Heartaches takes listeners on the rural circuit Skaggs and Stuart traveled, where an acoustic sound first assembled by masters such as Bill Monroe, Earl Scruggs, and Mother Maybelle Carter ruled the day. The young men were heirs to a bluegrass tradition transmitted to them early in life. One part mountain soul and another African American-influenced rhythm, the music they received was alternately celebrated and neglected in the more than fifty years after the two met in 1971, but since then it has never stopped evolving and influencing the wider American culture thanks to Skaggs and Stuart and other actors in this book, such as Jerry Douglas, Tony Rice, Keith Whitley, Emmylou Harris, and Linda Ronstadt. Riveting portraits of Johnny Cash, Ralph Stanley, Lester Flatt and other heartland-born figures emerge, too.