A Visual and Oral History
An entertaining and thorough introduction to the power of punk's hybrid evolution
Punk rock evokes dissent and disruption, abrasive and anarchic musicality, and a host of countercultural aesthetics. Featuring original interviews and over one hundred images, Roots Punk: A Visual and Oral History by longtime music journalist and author David A. Ensminger focuses on how punk merged with roots music to create a rich style that incorporated honky-tonk, rockabilly, doo-wop, reggae, ska, jazz, folk, blues, and labor ballads. This engagement transformed the notion of punk to include a wide array of vintage source material that seems more aligned with bolo ties and Stetsons than Doc Martens and safety pins.
Ensminger explores the music’s aesthetics, traits, and themes. He contextualizes, clarifies, maps, and probes roots punk’s hybrid nature as well as its diverse, queer-inclusive, and multicultural strains. By painting a broad, nuanced, and well-documented picture of the genre from its earliest incarnation, he forms a kind of people’s history of the movement. Roots Punk features original interviews with members of Minutemen, MDC, the Dicks, the Plimsouls, Tex and the Horseheads, Dils/Rank and File, X, the Flesh Eaters, Beatnigs, Alejandro Escovedo, Robert “El Vez” Lopez, Blasters, and more.
Whether covering sarcastic novelty forms or sincere embraces, Ensminger reveals and revels in a punk tradition lined with blues records, acoustic ballads, country, and hillbilly romp. In a time of growing conformity, replication, and commercialization, roots punk (sometimes dubbed cow-punk) offers a tantalizing revitalization and reimagination of the American songbook.
"With thorough, enticing interviews and incisive commentary, Roots Punk offers an important counternarrative to standard histories of punk."- David Pearson, author of Rebel Music in the Triumphant Empire: Punk Rock in the 1990s United States
"Roots Punk takes readers into new areas of punk’s rich history, showing how rockabilly, raw rock ’n’ roll, and R&B inspired some of the most important punk bands in the US and abroad."- Daniel Makagon, author of Underground: The Subterranean Culture of DIY Punk Shows