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T Bone Burnett

T Bone Burnett
A Life in Pursuit

This first critical appreciation of T Bone Burnett reveals how the proponent of Americana music and producer of artists ranging from Robert Plant and Alison Krauss to B. B. King and Elvis Costello has profoundly influenced American music and culture.

"Burnett's footprint is enormous and the minutia of that maze-like career is recounted expansively here. . . . Sachs has created what will likely remain a definitive account.”

Series: American Music Series, Visit

October 2022
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278 pages | 6 x 9 | 19 b&w photos |

T Bone Burnett is a unique, astonishingly prolific music producer, singer-songwriter, guitarist, and soundtrack visionary. Renowned as a studio maven with a Midas touch, Burnett is known for lifting artists to their greatest heights, as he did with Raising Sand, the multiple Grammy Award–winning album by Robert Plant and Alison Krauss, as well as acclaimed albums by Los Lobos, the Wallflowers, B. B. King, and Elvis Costello. Burnett virtually invented “Americana” with his hugely successful roots-based soundtrack for the Coen Brothers film, O Brother, Where Art Thou? Outspoken in his contempt for the entertainment industry, Burnett has nevertheless received many of its highest honors, including Grammy Awards and an Academy Award.

T Bone Burnett offers the first critical appreciation of Burnett’s wide-ranging contributions to American music, his passionate advocacy for analog sound, and the striking contradictions that define his maverick artistry. Lloyd Sachs highlights all the important aspects of Burnett’s musical pursuits, from his early days as a member of Bob Dylan’s Rolling Thunder Revue and his collaboration with the playwright Sam Shepard to the music he recently composed for the TV shows Nashville and True Detective and his production of the all-star album Lost on the River: The New Basement Tapes. Sachs also underscores Burnett’s brilliance as a singer-songwriter in his own right. Going well beyond the labels “legendary” or “visionary” that usually accompany his name, T Bone Burnett reveals how this consummate music maker has exerted a powerful influence on American music and culture across four decades.

  • Opening Chorus: On Top of the World (or Close)
  • 1. Sound Citizen
  • 2. The Outsider
  • 3. Player in the Band
  • 4. Alpha Male
  • 5. Spiritual Gumshoe
  • 6. Master Builder
  • 7. Co-Conspirator
  • 8. Seeker
  • 9. Svengali
  • 10. Imagist
  • 11. Native Son
  • 12. Mentor
  • 13. Hit Man
  • 14. Reluctant Artist
  • 15. Starmaker
  • 16. Company Man
  • 17. Coen Brother
  • 18. Soundtrack Auteur
  • 19. Minimalist
  • 20. Lead Actor
  • 21. Alchemist
  • 22. Jazz Man
  • 23. Blues Man
  • 24. Senior Adviser
  • 25. Audio Activist
  • 26. Dylanologist
  • 27. Televisionary
  • 28. Back to the Futurist
  • The Kill Squad: A Short List of Longtime Musical Associates
  • Acknowledgments
  • Selected Discography
  • Selected Bibliography
  • Index

LLOYD SACHSChicago, IllinoisA nationally known voice on popular culture, Sachs has written about pop music and jazz for many publications, including Rolling Stone, the Washington Post, DownBeat, the Village Voice, USA Today, and JazzTimes. He was a longtime music columnist and award-winning editorial writer at the Chicago Sun-Times and a senior editor at No Depression, the prized “alt-country” magazine.


“Sachs’ fine book is a welcome addition to the living history of American music and a delightful read.”

A Life in Pursuit is the first bio of the now 68-year-old American and, smartly, author Sachs understands going in that Burnett's story is that of the music he's touched. . . . Rarely has a music biography been this jam-packed with names of artists and the records they've made—Burnett's footprint is enormous and the minutiae of that maze-like career is recounted expansively here. . . . Sachs has created what will likely remain a definitive account.”

“Sachs artfully weaves together news clips and original interviews to create a valuable context for the musician-producer’s work.”
Texas Monthly

“In telling this story, Sachs has done roots music a great turn, in fine style.”
Songlines Magazine

“A record producer who’s had a hand in making some of the most timeless music of the last forty years, T Bone Burnett deftly renders singers, musicians, and songs into vital messengers of artistic truth. Lloyd Sachs’s easygoing prose frames a portrait of an enigmatic, enthusiastic, idealistic, and ultimately accessible musical raconteur/humanitarian who may very well be the most accomplished listener in modern times. In the bargain, we are reminded that Brother Burnett is himself a hell of a singer, songwriter, and musician.”
Rodney Crowell, Grammy winner and author of Chinaberry Sidewalks

“You will want a turntable and a stack of vinyl handy while reading Lloyd Sachs’s definitive music biography of the ‘King of Americana.’ This in-depth look at T Bone’s extensive body of work as a singer-songwriter, bandleader, sideman, producer, composer, and curator is a fine example of the kind of incisive music writing that helped fans originally discover ‘cult artists’ like Burnett.”
Holly George-Warren, author of A Man Called Destruction: The Life and Music of Alex Chilton, from Box Tops to Big Star to Backdoor Man

“If one follows the trail of American roots music over the last three decades, the bread crumbs invariably lead to T Bone Burnett's studio. Retracing this path in T Bone Burnett: A Life in Pursuit, Lloyd Sachs unravels the tale of this great American artist in most compelling form.”
Don Was, Grammy-winning producer and President, Blue Note Records

T Bone Burnett proves that a producer can make as much of an artistic impact as a performer. Enjoyable, sparkling prose.”
Geoffrey Himes, music writer for the Washington Post and former senior editor of No Depression and Paste


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3M Cloud Library/bibliotheca