Title: That Brant County Sound!: The Ballad of Jim Allison and Thunderbird Recording
Author: Tom Ryerson
Genre: Arts & Entertainment / Biography
This sizable volume contains the story of Jim Allison, a local Canadian country musician back in the 1960s and 1970s, and it shares how he influenced the careers and music industry of Brant County.
The book covers not only Jim Allison’s life but also the lives of 50 musicians and bands, from Roger Quick and Terry Sumsion to Jan Stevens, Fred H. W. McKenna, the Mercey Brothers, Dave Souliere, Terry Carisse, Marilynne Caswell, Marie Bottrell, Charlie Louvin, Don Oatman, Michelle Wright, and Whisky Hollow.
The format is creative nonfiction, as the author retells scenes from Jim Allison’s life, reconstructing them from extensive interviews and research he did on the man’s life. There are moments when the narration seems a bit indelicate, especially when referencing “Big” Jim Allison’s size, but it seems to reflect the time in which he lived. There are no works-cited at the end, though, so it’s hard to know which aspects were fictionalized and which were based on fact or memory.
While Allison seems to have been a good musician with an ear for solid country music, he struggled as a businessman, and this volume recounts those challenges. The ups and downs encourage readers to find out, first, how he got into having a record company and then where the company “went wrong,” as the author starts out by sharing that it operated for “less than four years.”
The volume could use the help of further editorial polish, as there were confusing and awkward sentences as well as some regularly occurring grammar errors. The timeline is not strictly chronological and created some difficulties in following the story, as the author jumps forward to follow certain threads “to their end” while others are kept in sequential order, and much of the book repeats itself, especially in the micro-biographies at the end.
This is a master-volume, the omnibus edition of everything pertaining to Jim Allison, so it includes references to people that don’t “strictly” have anything to do with the label or country music, like Jim’s great-grandparents.
After recounting the story of the Thunderbird label, though, it felt like the narration lost steam, and it glossed over the rest of Jim’s life, including his second marriage and the closing years of his life. This seemed a bit out of balance given the detailed focus at the beginning. More time was spent on discussing Jim’s grandmother than telling readers about the second woman he married, for example.
It is the story of a regular life, lived not always well, but lived all the same, and how that life touched others. It shows the failures and the good, the shortcomings and strengths, and it certainly shows the music industry with all its flaws. It may even encourage others to take charge of their own artistic careers after reading how managers and label owners can do very little to forward one’s career.
Those who enjoy biographies about regular people and anyone who is a fan of Canadian country music will likely enjoy this book.
This Editorial Review was written by the Book Review Directory staff. To receive a similarly honest, professional review for one of your own books, click here.