I was fortunate enough to receive and read Heather Augustyn’s last two books; one on the history of ska and the other, a painstakingly researched biography of the late Jamaican trombonist, Don Drummond.  Both were thoroughly enjoyable reads; both gave me a knowledge that I didn’t have before.  Which is the sign of a good author and historian.

Once again, Ms. Augustyn has, without question, hit it out of the park with her latest work, Songbirds: Pioneering Women In Jamaican Music.  It is clear that Heather Augustyn has a tremendous, deep love and respect for the music she writes about as she manages to research, in the finest detail, the stories of women who helped to shape and develop Jamaican music over the last five decades, but aside from perhaps two or three, have never had their names known outside the island nation.  Yes, there is a lengthy piece on Millie Small and a fair amount on Althea and Donna and The I-Threes, but the meat is in the stories of Enid Cumberland, Cherry Green, The Carnations and others.  Each of these women contributed to the various musical styles and flavors that popped up throughout Jamaica, starting in the 1950’s and continuing on.

The tireless efforts and thoughtful writing style of Ms. Augustyn is what makes these type of books worth their while.  Biographies and histories are often dry and while informative, not all too entertaining.  In her descriptive fashion, Ms. Augustyn vividly captures the essence of Jamaica to the point of almost being able to hear the music – before you go out to find a CD to hear the music.

As I’ve said before, if you love books on a certain style of music and the history behind it, you must check out Heather Augustyn’s writing – another excellent, attention-holding piece of work.  Significant, sympathetic and detailed, Songbirds: Pioneering Women In Jamaican Music is a must for any library, especially if you appreciate a complete historic scope.


Songbirds: Pioneering Women In Jamaican Music is available now.



About the Author

Rob Ross

Rob Ross has been, for good, bad or indifferent, involved in the music industry for over 30 years - first as guitarist/singer/songwriter with The Punch Line, then as freelance journalist, producer and manager to working for independent and major record labels. He resides in Staten Island, New York with his wife and cats; he works out a lot, reads voraciously, loves Big Star and his orange Gretsch. Doesn't that make him neat?

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