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I write about Bacharach -- and Burt approves
I wrote my first book this year, Burt Bacharach: Song By Song (shameless plug: It's available on amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com). I never fully realized how writing about one artist for a long stretch of time makes you an expert based on the sheer stick-to-it-iveness of it all. Not only do I get calls from the BBC and CBS Morning News on where they can find this or that Bacharach record, but friends who had no interest in Bacharach before call me up and ask me if he wrote "Feelings." Weirder still was hearing that Burt himself ordered a case of the book to give to friends as Christmas presents. That's like mom asking you for a recipe. -- S.D.

The return of Southern rock
"Don't worry 'bout losing your accent/A Southern man tells better jokes," Drive-By Trucker Jason Isbell's dad reassures him in "Outfit," a heart-rending tale from Decoration Day, the Alabama group's tremendous fifth album. This year, Southern men did more than just joke -- they wore their hair more bravely (Kings of Leon), used reverb more extravagantly (My Morning Jacket) and remembered Vietnam more thoroughly (Brooks & Dunn) than anyone else, too. The scene has so far proved resistant to opportunistic trucker-hat dilution. Don't hold your breath for 2004, though. -- M.W.

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