Mavericks of Sound: Conversations with Artists Who Shaped Indie and Roots Music: By David Ensminger, 231 pgs. By Jimmy

Up front: Ensminger is a great interviewer. He’s interested in his subject(s), he knows how to ask questions that will disarm and pique the interest of his interviewees to elicit more than a simple answer, and clearly does his homework. What that means to the reader of the assorted interviews collected here is that instead of page after page of rote answers to rote questions, one gets a deeper understanding of what makes a given artist tick: the things that shape them as artists, insight into their processes, whom they look to for inspiration. The interviews are inclusive and engaging in such a way that one can pick a random page and be immersed in a really good conversation where the identity of whomever is doing the talking almost becomes secondary.

No small feat, when you’re talking about folks like Ralph Stanley, Dave Alvin, David Thomas, Merle Haggard, Michael Gira, Jarboe, Alejandro Escovedo, Wayne Kramer, John Doe, Eugene Robinson, Deke Dickerson, and many, many others. Like its predecessor Left of the Dial, Mavericks of Sound slyly breaks down the arbitrary genre divisions put up between artists to get at a common core set of motivations and gives heft to the idea that the “legends”—those who have a lasting and profound impact on art—are those more interested in connecting with and reflecting on their world than pushing their brand and obsessing on the banal superficialities of being a “star.” –Jimmy Alvarado (Rowman & Littlefield,