Alanna Nash:Behind Closed Doors (Cooper Square Press)

Interview addicts owe a debt of gratitude to Cooper Square Press, which just reissued as a handsome trade paperback Alanna Nash's Behind Closed Doors.

Originally published in 1988, the volume presents question-and-answer sessions (each preceded by a mug shot and a two- to five-page capsule bio) between 27 acts in country music and Nash, who currently covers that genre for Entertainment Weekly. Those Q&A sessions and their attendant prolegomena vary in length from 13 to 28 pages and collectively fill almost 600 pages set in an efficient (and, to be sure, attractive) slab serif typeface. Moreover, Nash's subjects range from Bill Monroe (who founded or, depending on one's perspective, cofounded the subgenre of bluegrass) to Alabama (about whom, perhaps, the less said, the better). In that regard, Behind Closed Doors almost necessarily makes engrossing reading by virtue of its scope: it's a country cornucopia.

Along the metaphoric way, Nash chats with artists who ranked as rookies a decade and a half back but who now qualify as veterans-Rosanne Cash, Rodney Crowell, Steve Earle-as well as such nonesuches as comedienne Minnie Pearl and outlaw's outlaw David Allan Coe, who could give even someone like Toby Keith a lesson or two in bluster.

By way of fulfilling the volume's subtitle, "Talking With the Legends of Country Music," Nash also interviews luminaries like Merle Haggard, George Jones, Loretta Lynn, Willie Nelson, and Dolly Parton. (N.B.: A year after the 1977 session with Parton reproduced here, Nash published a full biography of the buxom Tennessee thrush, which Cooper Square Press updated late in 2002 and which Playback St. Louis reviewed last issue.)

Time's passage, of course, has transformed Behind Closed Doors into something of a requiem, in that not a few of the musicians herein profiled are now performing solely in celestial choirs; indeed, quite by chance, Nash's book commences with Roy Acuff (d. November 23, 1992) and concludes with Tammy Wynette (d. April 6, 1998).

Still, that can't count against it. If Behind Closed Doors at all disappoints, in fact, it does so only by excluding performers who have risen to prominence in the past 15 years. In that regard, interview addicts can only hope for an updated edition at some future time.

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