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Fire in the Water, Earth in the Air: Legends of West Texas Music

By Christopher J. Oglesby

University of Texas Press, 287 pages, $22.95 paperback

Reviewed by Dawn Pomento, February 2007

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Buddy Holly may have put Lubbock, Texas, on the map, but, well, so what" Everyone comes from someplace; why does Lubbock have such a mystic" Christopher Oglesby attempts to answer that question with a rudimentary introduction and the unadulterated words of 25 musicians who grew up in or in some way spent significant amounts of time making music in Lubbock.

Oglesby, a lawyer, doesn't have the writing flash that would naturally illuminate his subject and make this a page turner. He does have what it takes to document a case, which is ultimately how the book reads. It opens with a map that positions Lubbock in the web of Texas highways and a tourist-style map of the small downtown. Random photos of Lubbock along with some photos of the musicians dot the book. The book's introduction explains Oglesby's relationship to his hometown well-enough, but doesn't render any sparkling insight into the conservative west Texas city.

The introductions to the musicians are short and to the point. Oglesby's questions tend to prod familiar ground rather than draw out new insights. "Tell me about ..." is the most common beginning, as in this "question" put to Joe Ely: "Tell me about meeting The Clash in England and bringing them back to Lubbock."

The actual words of the musicians have to carry the book, and musicians are not always the most eloquent people without a melody. There are some unexpected gems. Guitarist Jay Boy Adams uses the rhythm of a natural storyteller to recount Lloyd Maines meeting Jimmy Page.

The time and location of the interviews - most were conducted outside of Lubbock - are carefully documented. The songwriters' interviews are followed by the lyrics to some of their best-known songs, and the appendix offers selected discographies for some of the more famous interviewees, such as Jimmie Dale Gilmore and Ely.

Although the book attempts to explain the creative impact of Lubbock, it's just as much about leaving Lubbock and the music connection to Austin. Just about everyone who could - such as Maines, the iconic C.B. Stubblefield of Stubb's Bar-B-Que and Oglesby himself - left Lubbock for Austin. Maybe that's why Oglesby begins the book with the map of the highways flowing into and away from Lubbock.