T Bone Burnett is a unique, astonishingly prolific music producer, singer-songwriter, guitarist and soundtrack visionary. Renowned as a studio maven with a Midas touch, Burnett is known for lifting artists to their greatest heights, as he did with Raising Sand, the multiple Grammy-winning album by Robert Plant and Alison Krauss, as well as acclaimed albums by Los Lobos, the Wallflowers, B.B. King, and Elvis Costello. Burnett popularized “Americana” with his hugely successful roots-based soundtrack for the Coen Brothers film, O Brother, Where Art Thou? Outspoken in his contempt for the entertainment industry, Burnett has nevertheless received many of its highest honors, including Grammy Awards and an Academy Award.
T Bone Burnett offers the first critical appreciation of Burnett’s wide-ranging contributions to American music, his passionate advocacy for analog sound, and the striking contradictions that define his maverick artistry. The book highlights all the important aspects of Burnett’s musical pursuits, from his early days as a member of Bob Dylan’s Rolling Thunder Revue and his collaboration with the playwright Sam Shepard to the music he recently curated or composed for the TV shows Nashville and True Detective and his production of the all-star album Lost on the River: The New Basement Tapes. Pursuit also underscores Burnett’s brilliance as a singer-songwriter in his own right. It reveals how this consummate music maker has exerted a powerful influence on American music and culture across four decades.
From the book:
“I observed in T Bone the idea that you’re engaging something that’s already in play and you’re trying to abide it, very much like jumping into the ocean, and learning sort of how to swim or, on a good day, surf on top of it, but you didn’t create that momentum and you’re not going to control it . . .You’re going to learn to be grateful within it, and when you get together with musicians in a room, there’s a notion that there’s all kinds of ways that a song might work. Our job is to find what it is and be fully committed to it, which liberates you from thinking, did I guess right? The question is have we authentically engaged something that’s alive?” – Joe Henry
“First and likely definitive portrait of the enigmatic producer/artists” – MOJO
“Sachs artfully weaves together news clips and original interviews to create a valuable context for the musician-producer’s work” – Texas Monthly
“A much-needed critical biography of an influential artist by a superior critic of the genre” – Library Journal (starred review)
“An admirable, comprehensive read through the life and times of a musical force whose journey is far from over” – Pop Matters
“A vibrant and colorful portrait – pulls us in with a magnetic force” – No Depression (which named A Life in Pursuit one of the 10 best music books of 2016)
“The best resource on the life and work of Joseph Henry Burnett III” – Texas Music
“Sachs has done roots music a great turn, in fine style – an impressively deep and broad look at Burnett’s career” – Songlines
“I wish all books on music were like this. You will be amazed at how much you learn” – Route 66
“You will want a turntable and a stack of vinyl handy while reading Lloyd Sachs’s definitive music biography of the ‘King of Americana.’ This in-depth look at T Bone’s extensive body of work as a singer-songwriter, bandleader, sideman, producer, composer, and curator is a fine example of the kind of incisive music writing that helped fans originally discover ‘cult artists’ like Burnett.” — Holly George-Warren, author of Janis: Her Life and Music and A Man Called Destruction: The Life and Music of Alex Chilton
“T Bone Burnett proves that a producer can make as much of an artistic impact as a performer. Enjoyable, sparkling prose.” – Geoffrey Himes, music writer for the Washington Post, Paste and many other publications
Available as book and audiobook (read by me) from Amazon and the usual alternatives. Here’s an audio sample of Chapter 1.
“Like the United States itself, the landscape of country music is spacious and varied. A country song can be about anything or anyone. It can be funny, sad, angry of inspiring. It can stomp like the blues or swing like jazz. A country singer can look like your favorite uncle or your kid sister, the head cheerleader or the class clown.” – From the introduction
“This is a fabulous foray into the lives of the artists and history of country music the young reader will enjoy.” – Amazon Hall of Fame reviewer D. Fowler
From the American Music Milestones series. Available as book and audiobook from Amazon, Twenty-First Century Books (lernerbooks.com) or the author.
Edited by Mike Reed. I contributed several short profiles of Chicago jazz artists. (Published by Constellation Performing Arts.)
Published by the University of Texas Press, this anthology of articles from No Depression features my profile of Rosanne Cash.