Music-soaked memoir from British television personality/music scribe Clayton.
The author loves jazz, blues, rock, soul, the works. He’ll go virtually anywhere in the world for a positive musical experience: a festival in Ireland, a hole-in-the-wall joint in New Delhi, a record store in, well, anywhere. Clayton is an especially obsessive fan of Billie Holiday, an artist who arguably melded jazz and blues better than anybody; he named his daughter after the star-crossed singer. Nothing makes the author happier than sitting around with friends and discussing the works of, say, blues legend Big Bill Broonzy. But after daughter Billie is killed in a tragic canoeing accident, he concludes that family is more important than music, which should enhance life, not swamp it. His perfectly readable autobiography lacks the charisma of Nick Hornby’s similarly themed Songbook, or the gravitas of the works of musicologists such as Greil Marcus, Robert Christgau and Nick Tosches. Clayton does have some solid musical knowledge, though, most memorably displayed in the chapter titled “Forty Records You Might Want to Make a Journey To,” which enthusiastically dissects albums by everybody from jazz saxophonist Ben Webster and folkie Buffy Sainte-Marie to punkers-turned-one-hit-wonders Chumbawamba. Unapologetically British from its lexicon to its unfamiliar cultural and geographic references, the book may turn off your average American book-buyer.
Sometimes charming, sometimes rambling.