Hillbilly, honky-tonk, Nashville glitz, or alt.country: what makes music authentically country?
"Pamela Fox's Natural Acts is the first completely mature book of country music historical criticism. It is a deep investigation of country music's power to articulate the displaced pleasures and anxieties of a society wracked by structural change. Historically rigorous, Fox uncovers documents that demonstrate the ongoing power of minstrelsy in barn dance programs across the country past World War II; musically and lyrically astute, she shows how the best honky-tonk music simultaneously critiques the dangers of that setting while seductively luring listeners to those sawdust and alcohol drenched environments; with her ear attuned to the formal complexities of autobiography, Fox directs our attention to the contradictory performance of identity that characterizes the life stories of Reba McEntire, Naomi Judd, Dolly Parton, and others. Natural Acts is provocative, stunning, and engagingly written. Country music studies has come of age."
—Barry Shank, Ohio State University
"'All I gotta do is act naturally,' Buck Owens sang, and Pamela Fox knows where the acting comes in. From early hillbilly acts to alt.country, Natural Acts lays bare, with wide-ranging scholarship and incisive analysis, the ideologies of authenticity on which country music rests. As engrossing and useful as any book I know on country music."
—Eric Lott, author of Love and Theft: Blackface Minstrelsy and the American Working Class
"Concentrating on four diverse aspects of country music history, one of the most impressive features of Natural Acts is the depth and fresh angle of its coverage. Theorizing a genre that is often (mistakenly) pigeonholed, Fox's book explores the dark corners and attics of country music history, emerging with fresh perspective and a new understanding of some of the music's often brushed aside darker elements."
—Cherie Rankin, Working Class Notes
"It is a useful and often insightful contribution to the literature and deserves serious attention."
—ARSC Journal, Philip Vandermeer