Heath Carpenter, a professor of English at Harding University in Arkansas, is the author of The Philosopher King: T. Bone Burnett and the Ethic of a Southern Cultural Renaissance (2019). He is also a native Arkansan, who is friends with previous podcast guest Bonnie Montgomery (featured in his book). Heath has traveled widely, but his globe-hopping has only emphasized the importance of having strong roots in his home state.
Musician and producer T. Bone Burnett has worked on such landmark soundtracks as Crazy Heart, Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?, and Cold Mountain and produced acts such as the Secret Sisters and Gregg Allman. His studio wizardry has changed the way Americans think about roots music.
Colin talks with Heath about how his book combines elements of history, film, literature, and music in its exploration of southern identity. In doing so, they examine how much the South has and hasn’t changed and how people’s perceptions of it are often at odds with reality–sometimes, as in the case of Deliverance, horrifyingly so.
Whatever you think of it, the South remains distinct and likes it that way. Arkansas has produced everyone from Johnny Cash and Al Green to Charlie Rich and Levon Helm as well as more recent acts such as The Gossip. Music remains one of its greatest exports. The state’s unique blending of Delta blues, gospel, country, and rock and roll keeps musicians and fans interested. Also, it still has cotton fields, if that’s your thing.