Woman Walk The Line: How The Women of Country Music Changed Our Lives began as an way to collect women’s voices and show the many ways music made by women changes lives. Designed to target writers of all ages, races, occupations, orientations and focuses, the anthology struck an unexpected chord with readers seeking authenticity, humanity and the reality of how women embrace and empower each other – whether in grief, defiance, curiosity or just seeking what seems like an impossible dream.
With The New York Times National section already publishing, “Each of the twenty-seven essays focuses on the experience of when music was a savior, an inspiration or an acknowledgement of a deep and personal truth,” the inclusion in Evelyn McDonnell’s music wrap-up in Sunday’s New York Times Book Review was rewarding. Alongside buzzy bios on Gucci Mane, Al Green, Lou Reed, TLC and Stevie Nicks, she singled out transgender writer Deb Sprague’s O. Henry-esque consideration of Rosanne Cash, which reflected upon familial expectation and sense of identity; which also mirrored Cash’s embodiment of her own contribution in the collection, her eulogy for June Carter Cash.
“It’s amazing to see which essays resonate for people,” says editor Holly Gleason. “Whether it’s someone coping with paralyzing grief, as food activist Ali Berlow does with Emmylou Harris, or deep trauma, which writer Kim Ruehl does in the wake of running from the Twin Towers falling in her beautiful essay about Patty Griffin, there is so much heart and humanity to go with the history and meaning. I think Woman Walk The Line gives tangible witness to why music, especially music coming from women, makes matters. It’s how it feels, not just the facts.”
Drawing on The New York Times bestsellers, historians, food activists, music critics, artists, TV producers, a curator from The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, the top James Beard Foundation Award winner and Fisk University’s Poet in Residence, Woman Walk The Line considers the continuum of country in real life ways. From Maybelle Carter to Taylor Swift – who also contributes an essay written at age 17 – Wanda Jackson to Kacey Musgraves, Lil Hardin to Rhiannon Giddens and many mainstream, bluegrass, progressive and Americana country artists in between, the Publisher’s Weekly Best Music Books of Fall selection sold out of its initial Amazon order two days after publication date – and rose to No. 15 on their Music list.
Now with its second printing underway, it joins Ann Powers’ Good Booty, Patti Smith’s Devotion, David Yaffe’s Reckless Daughter: A Portrait of Joni Mitchell, Wanda Jackson’s Every Night Is Saturday Night and Ben Greenman’s Dig If You Will The Picture on No Depression’s The Best Books of 2017 list.
“Looking at how well-curated the No Depression list is, it’s hard to get my head around,” Gleason says of the honor. “Every book, even the honorable mentions, is so readable and important. Perhaps this is a way of changing how the stories of these artists – from Linda Ronstadt by Grace Potter or Hazel Dickens representing strength and freedom to Ronni Lundy in the ‘70s, Dolly Parton’s feminism showing Nancy Harrison she didn’t have to surrender her femininity to tell her own stories or Madison Vain realizing Loretta Lynn’s songs are as urgent and topical now as when they were written – are told. The prism of lives lived in their songs shows what the music means, and how it works.”
People called Woman Walk The Line, “A rhapsodic moving look at music’s transformative power,” while PASTEdeemed it, “quite stunning.” American Country Countdown’s Bob Kingsley featured it on his show, as well as CMT: Country Music Television’s Hot 20. With stops at the Southern Festival of Books, the Miami Book Fair, the Americana Conference and Change the Conversation, Gleason will be joined by contributor Shelby Morrison and songwriter Rachel Brown at 7 p.m. Visible Voices this Friday, Dec. 8, as part of Cleveland’s Annual Walk of Tremont.
Gleason rings in 2018 on a high note. She joins Don Imus on Jan. 4 to discuss Woman Walk The Line on his national radio show, as well as lining up appearances in New York, LA and beyond.
The Complete List of Artists, Essays + Writers Below
- Maybelle Carter: The Root of It All by Caryn Rose
- Lil Hardin: That’s How I Got to Memphis by Alice Randall
- Wanda Jackson: When She Starts Eruptin’ by Holly George-Warren
- Hazel Dickens: The Plangent Bone by Ronni Lundy
- June Carter Cash: Eulogy for a Mother by Rosanne Cash
- Brenda Lee: Rare Peer by Taylor Swift
- Bobbie Gentry: Let the Mystery Be by Meredith Ochs
- Loretta Lynn: The Pill by Madison Vain
- Dolly Parton: Long Island Down Home Blues by Nancy Harrison
- Emmylou Harris: Common Ground in an Uncommon Love by Ali Berlow
- Barbara Mandrell: Lubbock in the Rearview Mirror by Shelby Morrison
- Tanya Tucker: Punk Country and Sex Wide Open by Holly Gleason
- Rita Coolidge: A Dark-Eyed Cherokee Country Gal by Kandia Crazy Horse
- Linda Ronstadt: Canciones di Corazon Salvage by Grace Potter
- Rosanne Cash: Expectations and Letting Go by Deborah Sprague
- The Judds: Comfort Far from Home by Courtney E. Smith
- k.d. lang: Flawless, Fearless by Kelly McCartney
- Lucinda Williams: Flesh & Ghosts, Dreams + Marrow by Lady Goodman
- Mary Chapin Carpenter: Every Hometown Girl by Cynthia Sanz
- Patty Loveless: Beyond What You Know by Wendy Pearl
- Shania Twain: But the Little Girls Understand by Emily Yahr
- Alison Krauss: Draw Your Own Map by Aubrie Sellers
- Terri Clark: Better Things to Do by Amy Elizabeth Mccarthy
- Taylor Swift: Through the Eyes of a Critic, of a Mom by Elysa Gardner
- Kacey Musgraves: Follow Your Arrow by Dacey Orr
- Rhiannon Giddens: A Gift Past the Songs by Caroline Randall Williams
- Patty Griffin: Remembering to Breathe by Kim Ruehl