Tex Sample's White Soul
is a compelling piece that argues country music is the music that encompasses the life of working class people (mainly white working class people, hence the title). His argument is mostly solid and provides very thought-provoking ideas and questions in regards to working people and their place in society. He also briefly touches upon the place of women and people of color in country music, as well as the sexism, racism and classism that undertones much of the music.
Towards the end of the book, Sample takes a religious turn and discusses how country music can be applied to the church, arguing for a "trashy" church: one where people would be free of a culture that values achievement over moral character. He is trying to convince theologians, and parishioners, to stop using differentiated language and move to a more oral based church, one that would invite working people to attend. He is sure to place a disclaimer that his ideas probably can not be used at this time, and they can't, but they are interesting all the same. He encourages the church to look towards country music to understand the general state of working people and "get on their level", so to speak. His argument is not a new one, but it was the first time I'd ever heard a theologian argue for country music to be added to the listening list in Mass.
In my opinion, the first half of this book was much more interesting than the last half.
There were a few times the book contradicts itself, mostly towards the end. For example, the text mentions that there is nothing in country music to offer anything better, just some comfort to help get people through the night. However, Sample then contradicts this statement later on page 171 when he says that country music offers something "more".
I took issue with a lot of the bias this book presents. Sample's argument is against the elite upbringing and how white collar people (in general) view the arts as something objective, using Immanuel Kant's idea that "art is for the sake of art". While I do agree that working people are more oral than literate (a fact that can barely be argued anymore), it is unfair to suggest that working people have a superior view of the arts, which is what the subtext suggests. In many ways, his own argument can be used against him. While he claims white collar workers are looking down on how working people view music, literature and the arts, he is looking down on the white collar workers for the same thing. The hypocrisy was jarring enough that I missed his message many times and had to re-read for objectivity.
For the most part, this book was a quick and easy read. The words flowed nicely and I enjoyed the break ups of each chapter and part. There were, however, multiple instances when a paragraph or sentence were word so awkwardly that I am still groping to understand what he meant by them.
I also had an issue with the preachy tone the text takes at the end of the book. Throughout most of the text, Sample presents objective and empirical findings on a rather subjective subject - and it was really interesting! Towards the end, however, objectivity is thrown out the window and the last paragraph of this book was one of the most preachy, on-a-soap-box paragraphs I've ever read. This disappointed me because it didn't go with the overall tone of the rest of the text.
All in all, I would recommend White Soul
if the reader has never read a book regarding this type of argument before. It was a very interesting case study of working class people and country music and presented information I had not considered before in a new light.