My Black Country: A Journey Through Country Music's Black Past, Present, and Future

Songwriter, author, professor, and Black music historian Alice Randall spotlights the Black history of country music in her urgent, engaging memoir, My Black Country. Randall (Black Bottom Saints) celebrates the often-erased Black musicians who shaped the genre, including the "First Family of Black Country": Lil Hardin Armstrong, DeFord Bailey, Charley Pride, Herb Jeffries, and Ray Charles. Randall traces their collective influence and weaves together country music's Black history with her own story. Born in Detroit and later spirited away to D.C. by her unstable mother, she reflects on her journey of love, loss, motherhood, hard work, and the music (much of it country) that has helped her make sense of her life as a Black woman. Moving from Motown to Music City, from Quincy Jones's Bel Air mansion to nights at the Bluebird Café, Randall charts her career as a songwriter in Nashville, trumpets the accomplishments of Black musicians often overlooked or completely ignored by the genre's white stars, and calls on fans and institutions to give Black country the respect it deserves.

Randall's memoir contains multitudes. She explores the historical roots of Black country; the influence of (among other things) singing cowboys, Pullman porters, and Los Angeles Black gospel; the women who served as mothers and midwives to the genre; and the Black musicians (Rhiannon Giddens, Lil Nas X, and more) shaping country music's present and future. Bold and unapologetic, Randall's book is a trailblazing tribute to the unsung heroes of Black country and a powerful story of a woman finding her way. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams

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