Praise for Lives of the Poets
“There’s much to like about this book, but its real strength is in Robertson’s voice, which bobs and weaves throughout each essay, and his construction of each musician’s character arc. At times, it reads like well-drawn character sketches with great conflict, tension, explosive revelations, highs and lows . . . Robertson’s irreverent voice, his character-driven storytelling abilities, and his personal indebtedness to the lucky thirteen make the collection work. This isn’t a history lesson tethered to research-it’s a novelist’s exploration of pioneers and the high drama of their lives.”
— The Alt
“On North American shores, writing about music and its cultural spin-offs has largely been defined by the snarky authority of Pitchfork and trash-talkin’ teardowns of VICE giving birth to the new, new cool. Whereas those writing for music publications in Britain, although still cheeky, offer far more in the way of literary craft, storytelling and historical insight compared to the brash Americans. Ray Robertson, a Canadian novelist, aligns himself closer to the British tradition reinforcing that smart, lively prose and a bit of wit go a long, marvelous way. In his recent book, Lives of the Poets (with Guitars), Robertson wades into the world of musicians who weren’t chart-bustin’ household names but still possessed remarkable talents turning out genuine gold-nugget recordings. One part of Lives of the Poets is a record guide revealing these undiscovered treasures, the other is Robertson’s gift of spewing out stories that simply shame most rock ‘n’ roll writers into the hacks they really are.
—Quill & Quire
Ray Robertson knows what he likes. He also knows how to pull the reader deep within what he likes, giving his words the same vibrant tones as the music and personalities they describe. Whether the artist he’s profiling is an acknowledged legend or barely even a cult figure, his passion for their work and their stories is overwhelming. And really, anyone who can bring the guitar tunes of Alan Wilson and Paul Siebel not only into my life but into such sharp focus has done a tremendous.
-Politics & Prose (Washington, DC)
Winnipeg Free Press
—Globe and Mail
“Robertson has a fine way with words, bringing to bear an insightful mind and a wide-ranging set of influences and perspectives . . . He brings his subjects alive with all their flaws and human foibles and makes the reader interested in delving deeper into both their stories and music . . . Ray Robertson has done music fans a service by bringing us this fine study of thirteen ground-breaking talents.”
— Penguin Eggs: Canada’s Folk, Roots, and World Music Magazine
—Blues Blast Magazine
“Novels about rock and roll bands usually fall in a great big heap when the writer tries to describe the music. I’m happy to be corrected on this one. Please drench me in the names of credible rock and roll novels. I can think of three. The Doubleman is one, Paul Quarrington’s Whale Music is another. The final and greatest of all is Ray Robertson’s 2002 novel, Moody Food. [He] uses his considerable storytelling abilities [in Lives of the Poets (with Guitars)]” to give his music a cohesive frame. This would be insupportable if the music wasn’t described with such clarity and detail. I could hear these albums as I read. That’s impressive.”
—53rd and Third
“Ray Robertson’s Lives of the Poets (With Guitars) takes a deep look at his personal pantheon of blues, country, and alt-folk artists for this idiosyncratic continuation of Samuel Johnson’s Lives of the Poets. Robertson splits his accounts between each artist’s personal lives, historical context, and musical contributions for a work that newcomers and long-term fans can enjoy alike.”
—BookPeople (Austin, TX)