Check Out This Book Review


By Janice Lee Odom


Jason Howard’s A Few Honest Words:

The Kentucky Roots of Popular Music


In “A Few Honest Words: The Kentucky Roots of Popular Music,” Jason Howard delivers much more than the title promises. The book is not meant to be an extensive historical account, but rather, a snapshot of the musical landscape in Kentucky, which is as diverse and unique as the people themselves. 


The artwork on the cover is evocative, suggesting something that we already have guessed: the roots of the music here in Kentucky are deeper than what meets the eye. Kentucky musicians, songwriters, and singers are not only bluegrass and country…they are rap, jazz and folk, but most of all, expressions of individuals. Also, there is present the idea that the musical arts can be, and many times is, activism at its finest.


Howard beautifully displays candid moments in his interviews, tipping off the telltale signs of how place can shape a person artistically but doesn’t have to define them. No matter what your musical tastes, this book has something to offer and something to teach.


Howard talks to Naomi Judd, Dwight Yoakum, and Joan Osborne.  There is also Ben Sollee, the cellist, songwriter whom, if you do an internet search, will reveal links to his song “A Few Honest Words” which I listened to for the first time and loved.  This book brought me out of my narrow musical circles and broadened my views. Kudos to Jason Howard and University Press of Kentucky.


From University Press of Kentucky Website:Jason Howard is coauthor of Something’s Rising: Appalachians Fighting Mountaintop Removal. His work has been featured in the New York Times, the Nation, Sojourners, Paste, the Louisville Review, Equal Justice Magazine, and on NPR. The book is out this October and can be purchased at

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