The Critical Mass

Taking Highway 61

highwayOops. I skipped out of The Critical Mass neighborhood for a while. Been spending too much time writing. And reading.

Reading, as in On Highway 61: Music, Race and the Evolution of Cultural Freedom, Dennis McNally’s recent book tracing the effect that roots music has had on American culture. It’s very worthy of your time, which I know is very, very valuable.

I won’t give you the details of McNally’s thoughtful thesis here; I’m saving that for noon on Tuesday, when I’ll be reviewing On Highway 61 for “Books Sandwiched In,” the lunchtime talk in the Kate Gleason Auditorium of the downtown Central Public Library, 115 South Ave.

I will say this: It’s a fascinating cast of characters, and some very unexpected ones. McNally, hired by Jerry Garcia to be The Grateful Dead’s historian, has also written books about The Dead, as well as Jack Kerouac. That all works into the picture as well.

Accompanying us on this 50-minute journey down one of America’s most-significant roads, both figuratively and literally, is the fine local bluesman Fred Vine, providing musical interludes, should your attention wander. I saw Fred playing Friday night at The Little Cafe with the bassist Brian Williams and singer-blues harpist Rockin’ Red, and he appears to be in mid-season form.

Join us. It’s free. And you can bring your lunch.