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Acoustic Stories

May 11, 2014

I met Bill Amatneek many years ago at Keele. He was a graduate research student on loan from Penn State University, and an awe-inspiring Bluegrass banjo-picker. I was in my final year. Both of us were active members of the Keele Folk Club. Happy memories!

When he returned to the States Bill didn’t pursue an academic career, and by some miracle he didn’t get sent to Vietnam. Instead, he played string bass. He’s still playing.

A couple of years ago Bill got in touch with me out of the blue. He was preparing an expanded second edition of his book Acoustic Stories, and over the course of several months and several hundred e-mails we renewed our acquaintance and discussed matters of typography and layout. Bill has made his living as a musician and story-teller in the oral tradition, and these stories are written in an engaging informal style, just as he might tell them round a camp-fire.

Bill’s book has just been short-listed by Foreword Review as one of the Book of the Year finalists in the Performing Arts and Music category.

 

Acoustic Stories

 

In these pages we meet some of the great names in American folk music: Peter, Paul and Mary, Bill Monroe, Pete Seeger, Bob Dylan, Jerry Garcia and Mimi Farina are some of them, along with  groupies and war veterans and many other memorable characters, including George Dubya.

I love these stories and the conversational way Bill tells them. It’s as if he and I have met by chance, on a train perhaps, and somehow got talking of our lives. I can almost hear his voice as I read. He brings the characters to life economically, with just enough detail, and gives them space to speak for themselves. His intuitive interview style has been honed by years of writing for Rolling Stone. He asks thoughtful and insightful questions and (for the most part) gets answers that would not be given to just anyone. The author is very seldom centre-stage, always respectful, never boastful, yet his musical knowledge and sense of humour shine through on every page. He notices things. He’s interested. He does the research. He lets slip just enough about himself to make me want to know more. This is in a different league altogether from most musical memoirs.

It’s available from Vineyards Press.

 

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