Book Review of Twang
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The songs Jennifer Clodfelter writes and sings aren’t from her imagination. With innocence and passion, Jenny pours the pain from her childhood into the lyrics of one Billboard Country hit after another. Her manager assures her that confronting formative years wrapped in violence and poverty is a necessary evil, part of the unstoppable force of her destiny to become a Country Music Diva. And for a while, little Jenny Cloud is in heaven. She basks in the spotlight on stage and the wild applause of her fans. But as she pours herself into writing more and more autobiographical songs, Jenny begins to find the emotional fallout is staggering. When she revisits a dark memory she thought was long-buried, she begins to seriously wonder if the high price she’s paying to write her hits is worth it. Jenny’s hairdresser, Tonilynn, sees the wounded little girl beneath the star’s on-stage smiles and she attempts to fix her broken spirit along with her hair by counseling Jenny to pour yet another long-repressed story of her father into a song. Is singing for her sanity a possibility in this instance? Would another hit song be therapy enough to reconcile Jenny and her dark past? Jenny Cloud faces the music with music.
About the Author:
Julie L. Cannon is a bestselling author, speaker and teacher. She believes that using your memories to write autobiographical fiction is both cathartic and powerful, and when Julie isn’t busy writing, she can be found leading memoir workshops, encouraging others to encourage others on this journey called Life. Julie has captured many awards in the ABA as well as the CBA. She loves growing flowers and listening to country music at her home off Hog Mountain Road in Watkinsville, Georgia.
You can learn more about Julie L. Cannon at www.julielcannon.com.
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Those first days in Nashville were happy. Happier than any I could recall. It was no accident I had Mac’s cousin pull his sputtering Vega to the curb on the corner of Music Circle East and Division Street. The Best Western was in walking distance of Music Row.
All my belongings were stuffed into two huggable paper sacks, and when I marched down that strip of red carpeting into a marble-floored lobby with a chandelier, I knew it was a palace compared to that drafty cabin in Blue Ridge with peeling wallpaper and warped floorboards. Room 316 had pretty gold and maroon carpet; gold curtains at a window with an air conditioning unit beneath it; two queen beds; two glossy wood tables—one in the corner with a lamp, an ice bucket and a coffee maker, and the other between the beds with a phone, a clock, and a remote for the television. There was even a little bitty refrigerator, a microwave, an ironing board and an iron. What else could a person need?
More curious about having my own indoor bathroom than a television, I tiptoed in there first. Nothing had prepared me for what met my eyes. Clean white tiles on the floor, a marbled sink, a blow-dryer, a stack of sweet-smelling towels and fancy soap. The washrags were folded like fans and there were free miniature bottles of shampoo and conditioner.
To say this felt like paradise would not be an exaggeration. Turning around and around until I got drunk with my good fortune, I collapsed and fell flat onto the closest bed, laughing like a maniac, some pathetic yokel finding out she’d won the lottery.
Though bone-tired on account of being so journey-proud that I hadn’t been able to sleep a wink in forty-eight hours, I couldn’t fathom closing my eyes. I hadn’t eaten in as long either, except for some pork rinds and a Pepsi on the ride. But I was like someone possessed; hungry only for the feel of Nashville, thirsty only for the way she looked. I promised myself for the hundredth time I would not think about my mother and the fact I’d left no note. I told myself I’d eat some real food and get sleep later, after I’d explored my new mother. I took the elevator downstairs to find some maps.
At the front desk, a sign said the Best Western had free breakfast; sausage, biscuits and gravy, waffles, eggs, oatmeal, muffins, toast, bagels, yogurt and fruit. The elation I felt at this was not small and I couldn’t help a happy little laugh.
A short, overweight man in a blue seersucker suit and bright orange tie bustled out of the room behind the front desk and said, “What can I do for you this evenin’, missy?” He had a tall pink forehead like you’d expect on a bald man, but his hair, and I could tell it wasn’t a toupee, was this lavish white cloud that put me in mind of an albino Elvis. I could see amusement in his startlingly blue eyes.
I didn’t bother to mention I was twenty-two, hardly a missy, because he’d said it so kindly and I was used to being mistaken for a much younger girl. “I wanted to see if y’all had any maps and stuff about Nashville, please.” I smiled back at him, noting the name engraved on his gold lapel bar: Roy Durden.
“We got maps coming out our ears! What other information you looking for?”
He nodded, turned and stepped to a bookshelf along the back wall, squatting slowly, carefully, as I watched in utter fascination to see if he’d manage to get his enormous belly to fit down between his thighs. He unfastened the button on his suit coat and the hem brushed the sides of gigantic white buck shoes. Eventually, he rose with a loud grunt, carrying an armload of papers. “Alrighty,” he said, spreading them on the counter like a card dealer in Vegas. “Let’s see what we can do for you.”
“Thanks.” I reached for a glossy brochure that said Tour the Ryman, Former Home of the Grand Ole Opry. It was lavishly illustrated with pictures of artifacts from early Opry years and old-time country music stars like Minnie Pearl and Hank Williams. There was a headline that said you could cut your own CD at the Ryman’s recording studio. Thanks to Mr. Anglin, I already had that task accomplished.
“Snazzy, huh?” Roy was nodding. “Now, that there is one hallowed institution. Tennessee’s sweet-sounding gift to the world. Place the tourists flock to.” He was talking with his eyes closed and this rapturous expression on his face. “Up until ’74, fans packed the pews of the Ryman every Friday and Saturday night. Folks loved that place so much that when the Opry moved to its current digs right near the Opryland Hotel, they cut out a six-foot circle from the stage and put it front and center at the new place. So the stars of the future can stand where the legends stood.” Roy had this faraway, misty-eyed expression. He grew quiet for a worshipful moment.
“There’s this one, too,” he said at last, pushing a slick brochure that read The Country Music Hall of Fame & Museum toward me.
My boss at McNair Orchards used to say he could see my face in a display hanging in the Hall of Fame, right between Barbara Mandrell and Tammy Wynette. Mac got my head so full of stars, I could hardly think of much else except to get to Nashville to show the world my stuff. I stared at the photograph of a building that looked to be an architectural wonder in itself. One side was an RKO-style radio tower, while the main part had windows resembling a piano keyboard, and an end like a Cadillac tailfin. “That’s nice,” I offered.
“Yep, real nice,” Roy said, his fingertips grazing more brochures reading Belle Meade Plantation, Margaritaville, General Jackson Showboat, Wildhorse Saloon, and The Parthenon. He lifted a map of Nashville. “Be helpful for you to know Second Avenue runs North, and Fourth Avenue runs South.”
“I didn’t bring a car.”
“That a fact?” He looked hard at me. “Well, downtown and the Hall of Fame are in walking distance, but it’s a ways to the Grand Ole Opry.” Roy’s index finger touched a spot on the map. “There’s also a place called Riverfront Park you could walk to, but I got to warn you, missy, Nashville sits down in a bowl, between a couple lakes and rivers, so it feels like you’re walking through hot soup in the summertime. Can be right intolerable.” He swiped his florid face at the memory of heat as I flipped through the pages of a brochure, pausing every now and again to stare at a picture of a star singing on a stage, the crowd going wild. There was an energy in those photographs; a palpable current of voice and instrument and the sweet thunder of applause. For a long time I looked at a picture of Dolly Parton and Porter Wagoner, their faces suffused with a bright, joyous light.
“You like this one?” Roy asked, making me jump. “Uhm, yeah.”
“That was in ’75, night Dolly and Porter sang their last duet together. I was close enough to see Dolly’s makeup.” There were tears in Roy’s eyes.
“Wow,” I said. “Wow is right.”
“Can I have it? Can I have all these, please?” I tried not to look too eager, but every cell in my body wanted to scoop up the brochures, rush to my room to study them, to dream of climbing right into the beautiful photographs.
“Go ahead, little missy. You must be a first-time tourist.”
I didn’t think of myself as a tourist. I was there because of a promise I’d made, and the voices I’d heard over 103.9
FM back in Blue Ridge. Mountain Country Radio assured me that Nashville was the place for a person bitten by the singer/ songwriter bug. “Uhm . . . I just like music.”
“Wellllll, you come to the right place then. We got live music right here at the Best Western.” Roy swept one arm out in a magnanimous gesture toward the other side of the lobby where I saw a doorway to what I’d figured was the dining area. A sign in the shape of a giant guitar pick said Pick’s, and next to that was another reading Great Drinks!
“Y’all need anybody to sing at Pick’s?”
“Naw. We got our bands booked a good ways in advance.” “Wonder where musicians who’re looking for work hang out,” I said in a casual voice, gathering the brochures. “Nashville draws musicians like honey draws flies, and a body can’t go ten yards without bumping into one of them looking for work. Tons of wannabes in here constantly, trying to make their way. Dreaming the dream.”
From the tone of Roy’s voice, I couldn’t tell if he were trying to give me a warning or just stating facts. “Well, thank you,” I said, turning to go.
“Wait. How long you plannin’ to stay?”
Barring any unforeseen expenses, I knew about how far my much-fingered roll of $20 bills would go. The Manager’s Special of $65 per night came out to two weeks for $910, leaving $90 for food and incidentals, and surely in that time I’d have some paid work singing. A recording contract if Mr. Anglin’s prediction came true. Seeing his dear face in my mind’s eye made a little guilty tremor race up my spine. I needed to get back to my room. “I paid for three nights up front,” I said, turning to go again.
“Hey!” he called, spinning me on my heel to see those intense blue eyes looking at me. “You sing?”
I hesitated, then answered, “Yessir. Play and sing. Write all my own material.”
“Well, well. What’s your name, missy?” “Jennifer Anne Clodfelter.”
“Mighty big name for such a slip of a girl. Anybody ever tell you you’re a dead ringer for Cher?”
I nodded. By twelve I was constantly compared to the dark, exotic celebrity when she was young, starring in the 1970’s Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour. Tall and willowy, my straight blue-black hair fell to my waist. But, where Cher wasn’t exactly well-endowed, I was ample in the bosom department. The other difference between me and Cher was that my eyes were green.
“So . . . what style of music do you do, Jennifer Anne Clodfelter?”
I borrowed some confidence from Mac’s words when he handed me my last paycheck. “I’m the next Patsy Cline.”
“Alrighty.” Roy chuckled. “Then let me guess. You do traditional? Or maybe early country?”
“You said you’re Patsy Cline. But, there’s tons of styles. Got your Nashville sound and your country rock. Then there’s rockabilly, bluegrass, honky-tonk, outlaw, and Bakersfield sound. Cowboy western and western swing. Oh!” he clucked his tongue. “About forgot Texas country style, and the new traditionalist, and can’t leave out the contemporary sound, and of course, alternative. Though I don’t cotton to alternative.”
My heart started racing for fear my ignorance would show. “I’m the old kind of country.”
“I see. So, you want to be a star?”
I saw mischief in those blue eyes and I didn’t know how to answer this question either. At last, I nodded.
That’s when he began regarding me with amused pity. “If that’s the case, you’ll really want to be here a little longer. Actually,” he paused and drew a long breath, “you’ll want to be here nine years.”
Roy cleared his throat, and it seemed he stood on tiptoes because he rose up at least two inches. “Nashville may be the creative center of the universe if you’re a songwriter, all kinds of resources here for learning the industry, lots of places you can sing, but folks don’t call her the nine-year town for nothing. They say it takes nine years to break into the scene, to become an overnight success. I’ve lived here all my life and I love her, but if you’re looking to break into the music business, she can chew you up and spit you out like nobody’s business.”
I must’ve looked sad, or confused, because Roy’s face softened, his voice grew smooth as silk, “You got people here?” “I’m on my own.” Four simple words—the truth of it stunned me.
“I got an extra room at my house.”
“Uhm . . . thanks. No offense, but I’m fine on my own.” “Ain’t trying to rain on your parade, but I’ve seen plenty have to wait tables or worse. Randy Travis was a cook and a dishwasher at the Nashville Palace before he could make it on his music. Seen a good number turn around and head home, too, tail tucked between their legs. You might need a place if—”
“I said, I’m fine.”
Roy rolled his lips inward, considering. “Independent type, hm? Well, good luck. But don’t worry if you change your mind.” He drew in a long breath. “If you change your mind, you just come right on back and see Roy. I’m here most evenings after seven p.m. I just figured if you’re new around town, trying to make your way in the country music scene, it’d be good if you had somebody to fall back on.”
This book is so much better than the title. I would never have even picked this book up to read the blurb because the title could have made me think “lame”. I am a huge country music fan, and the information on the music industry showed incredible accuracy.
I enjoyed the book much more than I thought I would and would encourage people to read it. This is really a case of “Don’t judge a book by it’s cover,” or in this case it’s title.
I give this book 3 out of 5 clouds.
This product or book may have been distributed for review; this in no way affects my opinions or reviews.