Tom Piazza sits in a car waiting for Jimmy Martin to come out of Jimmy Martin’s house. Jimmy Martin, in case you didn’t know—and Jimmy Martin would have been painfully aware that in many cases, people didn’t know—was a bluegrass legend, as memorable for his smash-the-table-against-the-wall temper as for singing and stringing. Jimmy Martin is drunk inside his own house. Tom Piazza’s thoughts of rousing him become quickly tempered by the sounds of Jimmy Martin’s two intemperate guard dogs.
Tom Piazza doesn’t know what’s going to happen next, and in simple, supple language his mounting terror becomes a hysterical heartbeat in the throat of the reader. Adept with emotions, the writer combines the personal and the political with his defenses of his adopted home. New Orleans as theme park, he writes—and not everyone will agree—could conceivably out-worsen New Orleans as après-deluge devastated: “The idea of turning one of the great, thriving, complex living cultural centers of the world…into a manicured jewel box like Savannah or Charleston…is nauseating and despicable.” Turning on a dime from the personal to the political.
He also finds a unifying theme between those two above. Like the Band (Canadians absorbed in Americana) and the Mekons (to Nashville by way of Leeds), Piazza isn’t sure where he belongs and the status of interested outsider leads him to inquiries into the very nature of community, and even friendship. Inspiration and illumination on every page. And he even survives Jimmy Martin (not really a spoiler).