Bunch traces his search for ``The Jukebox of the Covenant'' while also describing his maturing from a footloose reporter to a married father living in the ``exurbs.'' Pulitzer Prize-winning Newsday reporter Bunch is nostalgic for an America that may have never existed. His paradigm is the neighborhood bar, where the working-class stiff could hoist a brew while sitting next to a rocket scientist (or so Bunch would like to imagine). The jukebox is the ultimate symbol of ``freedom of choice'': For a mere nickel, the barfly could choose the music he wanted to hear. Inspired by a visit to a New York bar, Bunch hears Nancy Sinatra singing ``These Boots Are Made for Walkin' '' and interprets it as a statement of mission. He begins his journey in Hoboken; revisits a boyhood bar where his grandfather took him after fishing; and moves on to, among others, Chicago's South Side; the Mississippi blues belt and Cajun country; the nouveau art-rock capital, Seattle; and the burnt-out inner city of Detroit. Bunch has a good gift for gab, describing the chilly reception he received at a tiny Mississippi bar, where a patron ``glared at [me] the entire time like [I was] carrying a stack of Mantovani records.'' But his enthusiasm hides a thin knowledge of music, so he misses many opportunities. Although he crosses paths with the great Cajun accordion player Marc Savoy, he focuses instead on a marginal blues musician named T-Model Ford. Ultimately, Bunch is more interested in the mythology of juke joints than in the reality, ignoring the violence, alcoholism, and grinding poverty. He also spends many an hour fretting over the wife and child he left at home, finding his roots in the ``condo-crazed nether land'' where he lives. Not an unenjoyable ride, but not an apocalyptic vision, either. A watered-down version of Blue Highways for the Miller Lite crowd.
Read full book review >