Women in Texas Music: Stories and Songs
by Kathleen Hudson

University of Texas Press, 2007. ISBN 978-0292717343.
Reviewed by Susan Wittig Albert
Posted on 11/08/2007

Anthologies/Collections; Nonfiction: Memoir; Nonfiction: Creative Life

Women in Texas Music is an indispensable collection of wide-ranging interviews that will be read and taken to heart by fans, music historians, aspiring women musicians, and women who want to know what makes other women tick.

Fans of Marcia Ball, Lee Ann Womack, Betty Buckley, and the three dozen other Texas women songwriters and performers included in this book will be delighted to read their stories, painstakingly recorded and transcribed by music aficionado and oral historian Kathleen Hudson. People interested in Texas music history will find that every interview opens a different chapter in the back stories of the Texas women who, against all odds (music is still a man's business and a rough row to hoe), have made names for themselves in Texas blues, rock, country, folk, jazz, and pop. And aspiring women musicians who have the desire to perform and the will to work will find plenty of inspiration here, for every woman documented in this book is a strong woman who has served her time, paid her dues, and made a place for herself. She has something to teach, everything to risk, and nothing left to lose.

But for me, the most important contribution of Women in Texas Music is the glimpse it gives us into the lives of gutsy women who have chosen a hard road but whose hearts have stayed soft. And for that, we have author/interviewer/editor Kathleen Hudson to thank. Hudson, founding director of the Texas Music Heritage Foundation, plays an active role in every interview, suggesting, commenting, and encouraging her subjects to open up. And open up they do, in a way that's astonishing, poignant, heartbreaking, heartening.

"It's about fiery women," says Stephanie Urbina Jones. "Not just women being crazy, but women being on fire with intention."

"I am bold and outspoken," says Betty Buckley. (Yeah, we knew that.) "I just want to live life from my heart. I don't want to pussyfoot around because I'm strong and have a point of view."

"I'm not singing, 'My man done left me,' says Shemekia Copeland. "I'm singing, 'I'm a wild, wild woman.'"

These wild, wild women talk about music, yes, but about so much more. They talk about having kids and not having kids, about juggling careers and families, about growing old in a business that caters to the young, about their mothers and their fathers, their lovers and their husbands. They talk about Willie and Kris and Townes, and about being lonesome, stoned, lost, found, in love, hitting bottom, climbing to the top. Led by Hudson (who occasionally sounds like a smitten groupie but almost always redeems herself with a pungent remark), they talk about being fully and truly and deeply women. "We are preservers, recorders, communicators, storytellers," Susan Gibson says.

Yes, they are. And then some.

Kathleen Hudson is the founding director of the Texas Music Heritage Foundation at Schreiner University in Kerrville, Texas, where she teaches English. She is the author of Telling Stories, Writing Songs: An Album of Texas Songwriters. Visit her website.

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