Unlike the hapless gift-givers who showered Scottish accordionist Phil Cunningham with 13 copies of Annie Proulx’s book Accordion Crimes, today’s buyer-in-the-know has many options for the literary accordion-fan on their list. This year has seen the Accordion Noir/Uprising headquarters showered with a pile of new (or new to us) accordion books we’d love to recommend. I must say that only a year or so ago when I started working on my own book project there was little competition. Now there’s a growing shelf of free-reed oriented tomes to choose from. The more the merrier I say. If you search online for “Guitar book” you may find (literally) 50,000 options. Even a few hundred more accordion books would not be too many!
As my own book is not available yet (maybe next year? That’s a goal) here’s some great options for the squeezer in your life.
Helena Simonett previously wrote a fascinating book on the Mexican Banda tradition
– which to a lay-person’s ear sounds like tex-mex accordion music with the accordion replaced by massed horns. Pretty cool. Now she’s edited a solidly researched and readable collection that sets out across the Americas from the wilds of Minnesota to the shores of the Caribbean, and from New York’s Yiddish bands to the tango orchestras of Argentina. I’d been waiting a year to read Jared Snyder’s latest on African American accordion, included here – this time focusing on great new material about accordions in pre-jazz New Orleans of 1890-1910. (Louis Armstrong’s predecessors played accordions, ‘nuf said.) Other folks I’ve connected with in the past: James P. Leary
, who’s work on the Upper Midwest’s vibrant roots traditions stand in contrast to the “one person with a guitar” image of the folk revival in the US. I eagarly await his re-release project for Alan Lomax’s “lost” 1930s recordings from the region. Begs the question, “Why didn’t Bob Dylan play the accordion?” Sydney Hutchinson
continues her work charting the development of the old-school Merengue Tipica
in the Dominican Republic. We also get coverage of Brazilian Forró
, Colombian Vallenato
, and the Waila “Chicken Scratch”
music of Arizona’s indigenous Tohono O’odham. The related Tejano “Tex-Mex” conjunto
section is by Cathy Ragland
, whose Música Norteña
covered the south-of-the-border style that is surely the most popular accordion music in North America. For a Cajun
lover as well this one can’t be beat. The Klezmer-accordion article by Joshua Horowitz
is worth the price alone. A long-awaited volume that has lived up to all expectations. For the non-academic, there’s even an academic article on accordion jokes!
University of Illinois Press,
Urbana, Chicago, and Springfield, 2012
344 pg. $30.00
The Anglo-German Concertina, a Social History
by Dan M. Worrall
Two serious fun-filled volumes. I wish there were an equivalent completist history of the accordion. That would make all of our work much easier. Dan has compiled seemingly every reference to the concertina for the last 180 years, laid out by subject, “Irish?” “North-American?” “Nautical” (i.e: no pirates, but everybody else since), “Salvation Army?” “African?” It’s flat-out amazing how much he’s gathered together here. Endlessly entertaining to the squeezebox geek in your life.
440 illustrations, 28 transcriptions, 620pp., $40.00 US
Fulshear, TX (3rd ed, 2010)
The Concertina Maintenance Manual: for English, Anglo and Duet Concertinas
Practical guidance from David D. Elliott
Precisely what it says – explains the remarkable mechanics of how the accordion’s compact cousin is put together. Enlightening no matter what instrument is your preference. The photos showing the complexity of these remarkable little instruments are quite beautiful. Get your 19th Century technology fix and wonder at one of the (many) inventions of Charles Wheatstone
, who also helped bring us telegraphy and other wonders we take for granted. I’ll probably never fix a concertina, but I’m happy to have this lovely book anyway, and as a bonus I suppose I know I’ll be ready if the question ever comes up.
First published 1997. Completely revised and updated together with new additions, 2002
Mally Production, West Yorkshire, UK, 2003
Piano Accordion Owner’s Manual and Buyer’s Guide,
by George Bachich
This swell volume is a guide to how accordions work, with the aim of showing players and potential players what to expect when they examine one of these complicated musical machines. For those who’ve never braved opening the body of their instrument, or anyone contemplating buying an accordion, Mr Bachich has done a huge amount of work to make this book very understandable and helpful to beginners and others. (He goes further into tuning than I’ll ever get, but that might well save somebody else thousands of dollars.) Bachich tells the story of how he got started doing, “Accordion Autopsy” workshops at festivals and offering free repairs, which led to him writing this book so that users could have the information others had found so useful. The first accordion repair manual published in English since 1956! (It may just be a gift that lasts until 2068.) The “Piano Accordion” in the title is accurate, but most issues apply to other types of keyboards. Bachich’s Accordion Revival website
is a great source for down to earth guidance: “Accordion Repair is no rocket science.” A great addition to the new wave of squeezebox literature, keep it coming.
And let us not forget:
Squeeze This! A Cultural History of the Accordion in America,
by Marion Jacobson
Covered here when it was published last march.