Generally Eclectic Review

Reviews of book on music - all sorts. Feel free to share your comments, criticisms, and replies with my readers!

Location: Fredonia, New York, United States

Feel free to contact me at mason2042 at gmail dot com

Sunday, February 06, 2011

“A New Mountain To Climb” by Neal McCoy (Tate Publishing)

Neal McCoy enjoyed tremendous success in the country-music field during the 1990’s, but the intervening years have not been quite so kind to him on the record charts. Nevertheless, he has managed to maintain high levels of success and name recognition as a live performer, due in particular to the uncanny loyalty of his fan base. No doubt his supporters recognize and appreciate the fact that McCoy is one of those special musical artists who supports his fans as much as they support him. McCoy is as much a humanitarian as he is a show-business personality, someone who has tried to do as much as he can for those who, through no fault of their own, have been less fortunate than him.

His first book is not a memoir (which, quite frankly, is what I was expecting) but a collection of short essays about real people he has met who have encountered and overcome tremendous obstacles in their lives. As such, it is not a “music book”, which is the stated theme of this blog, but belongs instead under the heading ”inspirational”. Since this is not the sort of thing I generally read or review, I have no real basis for a critical judgment, except to say that I did indeed find these stories to be inspiring, as we meet people with incurable physical conditions, poverty, or accidental injuries striving and generally succeeding to overcome the mountains life has put in their path. Rather than approaching these tales with a weepy, pitying bathos, McCoy describes the low points, then shifts his focus to the positive aspects of these people’s lives, such as their family relationships and their small accomplishments (and sometimes big ones). Yes, you may cry at times, but more often you will cheer, or at least come to appreciate what these people have done. You will also cheer and appreciate Neal McCoy as well.

Most of the real people McCoy profiles are “little people”, neither rich nor famous, just common folks. But he also discusses Mickey Gilley’s paralysis following his accidental fall off a porch while moving furniture. We likewise meet basketball star Karl Malone’s mother and, perhaps most memorable of all, General Tommy Franks, as well as a few of the soldiers who served under him in the Middle East. The aspect which ties all of these individual stories together is McCoy’s musical career, which made it possible for him to meet and interact with these varied individuals, separated as they are by geography, age, and physical condition. Indeed, the most harrowing chapter of all may be McCoy’s recounting of the small, secret USO tour he made in the company of Wayne Newton and Drew Carey to war-torn Afghanistan. The small troupe literally put their lives on their line to bring a bit of joy and diversion to the soldiers. You can’t help but admire them for these selfless actions.

Neal McCoy proves to be an ingratiating writer, with a good sense of narrative and thematic organization, carrying the “mountain” motif throughout the book without it ever becoming stretched or cloying. I hope he considers writing his own life story next. I have a feeling it could prove to be as motivational - and entertaining - as this book.

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