Remnick’s music essays are detailed close-ups of aged heroes; sometimes, as with a 2016 profile of Cohen, published mere weeks before the subject’s death. By virtue of their subjects’ legacies and the scarcity of opportunities to read long features about any given pop musician these days, they are journalistic events ... As events go, however, they’re a bit stiff. Holding the Note is a music book that doesn’t raise its voice, an odd fact considering the shouters, belters, bluesmen, poets and one Italian tenor whom Remnick studies ... Repetition is an understandable risk for any collection like this, though that doesn’t make the patterns less noticeable ... [There] are go-to riffs, as it were, easy enough for any music writer to fall back on. More disappointing is Remnick’s flat descriptions ... Composure has its place, but music deserves our heedless attention.
Exceptionally vivid and melodic profiles of musicians late in life ... These are keenly observed, deeply felt, and judiciously detailed encounters of genuine communion mixing interviews, biography, and analysis, all lyrically and radiantly composed.
There’s dish here... and plenty of astute observation, but the central point is that many older artists will go offstage only kicking and screaming—a little diminished, true, but full of fight ... A perceptive pleasure for literate music lovers.