Book Review: Step It Up and Go - The Story of North Carolina Popular Music

By Samir Shukla

Step It Up and Go - The Story of North Carolina Popular Music
Author: David Menconi
(University of NC Press)

David Menconi is a long-time North Carolina music journalist. He began his music writing career at Raleigh News and Observer and has spent three decades covering the state's music. He has gathered years of interviews, reporting and historical research and chronicles the state's musical history in his fine new book, Step It Up and Go, the Story of North Carolina Popular Music.

The book covers everything from early NC music stalwarts like Blind Boy Fuller to indie rockers Superchunk to North Carolinians achieving fame as winners and runners-up of TV's American Idol. Breaking it down into concise, cohesive chapters. The south's intricacies are woven into its music, and North Carolina is among its fertile grounds of American musical history.

Many NC-based record labels, Sugar Hill, Merge, Mammoth, and others are covered with their timelines of successes, setbacks, and failures. He interlaces the history with interviews he has conducted over the years with myriad North Carolina musicians to create a narrative of NC's popular music. Menconi deftly covers the genres, musical eras, and personalities. The varied and diverse musical styles of NC musicians and artists are written about in a clean and concise prose, elucidating its many subtleties as well as traditions.

He also writes of music towns and scenes, (Chapel Hill, Winston Salem, Raleigh), including musicians that have achieved widespread fame and indie bands that have influenced the state's musical directions, though may not be well known. Instigators, influencers, producers, recording studios all are covered while traversing the state's musical alleyways, including genres like Piedmont blues, jazz, and bluegrass to beach music, rock, hip-hop, and more. Mill and textile towns, mountain music, college-town clubs and radio stations are part of the story Menconi unfolds.

Menconi is a journalist, but is also a music lover, and writes of music with a conversational passion, much like a friend turning you on to new music.

Sidebars in each chapter, along with photographs, round out the narrative. This book is a solid addition to the documentation of NC music and musicians.

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Samir Shukla is the editor of Saathee magazine. Contact - Samir@saathee.com