“Country music is white man’s soul music.”
“It doesn’t offend us hillbillies, it’s our music.”
—Dolly Parton on the term “hillbilly music”
“She sounds exactly like where she’s from.”
—Vince Gill on Dolly Parton
“The old ghosts are always rising up, refusing to be cast aside.”
Johnny Cash’s At Folsom Prison was the first album I ever had of my own, a Christmas gift from my parents. I listened to that album over and over on the stereo my parents had given me that year, sprawled out on the floor of the living room of the little house my father had built on the outskirts of Houston, Texas, in the mid-1950s. I was ten years old.
Cash was my musical hero, and I learned every word to every song on that album. Momma and Daddy were very tolerant of me and my musical enthusiasms—the sound of Cash’s voice reverberated throughout the house all of that day and into the night. I ate my meals that day cross-legged on the floor, and soaked it all in. “Hello, I’m Johnny Cash,” Cash’s signature introduction line, was first spoken to the inmates...