21st Century Troubadour by Andy White Is An ‘On The Road’ For Musicians

Book Review
Title: 21st Century Troubadour
Author: Andy White
Publisher: Lagan Press
Released: 2009
Pages: 320
ISBN-10: 1904652727
ISBN-13: 978-1904652724
Stars: 5.0

Freewheeling, mordant, rumbustious, 21st Century Troubadour is a travelogue into the imaginative heartlands of rock and roll.  It’s the journal of a slightly twisted love affair with life, art, music, the musical life and all the combinations thereof.

Its author Andy White, is a complex, Belfast-born, Cambridge educated man who travels the globe as a 21st century troubadour.  Hauling an acoustic guitar, a laptop and a 70lb. Bag – there are Rules of the Bag – with his life in it; this brilliant poet/musician spends half of each year away from his beloveds and their house on the hill in Melbourne.  He has worked with such music legends as Van Morrison, Peter Gabriel, Sinead O’Connor and Tim Finn (though he doesn’t talk much about this in the book) and was once the director of the World of Music, Arts and Dance (WOMAD) festival in the UK.  White earns a living playing his exquisite, intelligent and heartfelt songs mostly in Europe, America and Australia but has given up trying to answer the question, “where’s my home?”  Andy’s a citizen of the world, comfortable in his skin, confident of his gift, and has seen and done more in his 49 years than most of us could ever imagine.  I confess that I fell a wee bit in love with him after reading this book.

His publisher at Lagan Press wanted a journal, an On The Road, and White delivered in spades.  21st Century Troubadour is most certainly On The Road for musicians and music fans, and even more accessible to this generation than Kerouac’s masterpiece.  It’s a collection of thoughtfully written snapshots of Andy’s life as a touring musician between the years 2000 and 2008; an engaging, funny and poignant chronicle that cries out for a sequel.  In the meantime, fans like me can stay in the loop by following his blog.

As a life long music fanatic who has read countless volumes of music biographies and autobiographies, I can honestly say that no book with a musician as its central character has ever moved me more than this.  It probably helps that I’m close in age to White, have met him, and can totally identify with all of his pop and cultural references, but regardless, I had so much fun reading the prose of 21st Century Troubadour that I re-read it and savored every moment of his myriad of adventures.

Andy has an earnest, spirited, yet realistic view of the world and the people he meets in it and seems to take something meaningful away from every encounter.  21st Century Troubadour began as a tour/diary blog through which he shared his concert experiences and it evolved into a descriptive account of the places he’s been to and the assortment of remarkable characters he’s met along the way.  As he affirms at the very beginning of the book, “there is no narrative on a 21st Century Troubadour’s tour.  There is no plot, and only a few recurring characters.  Nothing is certain except that nothing is certain.”

Reading this journal, you’ll discover just how unglamorous most of a touring musician’s life is as he chocks up millions of air miles, waits in airport departure lounges, maintains a steady diet of sandwiches and KitKat bars, sleeps in hotel rooms – if he’s lucky, as he’s slept in some pretty strange places – and prays that the gigs he’s booked via email haven’t been cancelled before he gets to his destination (places like Soweto, Berlin, Glasgow, Alaska & Tokyo to name just a few) and that they’ll be financially lucrative once he’s there.  “There are lists, poems, and advice on such topics as how to check in large amounts of bags on budget airlines without paying excess baggage fees, and what to do when you’re mistaken as one of U2.”  I understand he’s also been taken for a member of Sting’s band as well.  All is he wants to know is which member of the band is he supposed to be?  His list called ‘56 Reasons Why The German Concert Will Be Empty Tonight’ and section on ‘The Hugh Grant Pack’ are particularly funny!  At the back of the book there are also two interviews with Andy that offer even more insight into this fascinating character.

It can be a rough road sometimes but Andy wouldn’t have it any other way. His hilarious tales of a troubadour’s Hell and Nirvana will make you smile, laugh, and nod your head in acknowledgement of his pleasure and pain.  21st Century Troubadour is a must read for anyone who dreams of being a touring musician, is one, knows one, or simply loves music.

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