Writings and Photos > Book: Songs of Joshua Tree

Praise for Songs of Joshua Tree

“As much as its paths, rivers, and people, the story of a place is also in its music. Lauren Eisenberg Davis tells this story beautifully, from the musical traditions of the Cahuilla that have been preserved over thousands of years, to the Tinariwen who brought the music of a different desert halfway around the world, to the songs sung at the author’s one-person seder, to the music from around the world which has drawn thousands of people to it. Songs of Joshua Tree conveys the rhythms of one of the hardest places on earth both to live, and to explain - the desert.”
~~ Moses Gates
Author of Hidden Cities: Travels to the Secret Corners of the World's Great Metropolises: a Memoir of Urban Exploration

“Elegantly and joyfully written, this musical and social history explores a flourishing area of the American Southwest, tracing its heritage from its ancient native communities to the present-day inhabitants. Pulsing with spiritual chants, sacred ceremonies, the pioneer settlers’ lusty songs, and the current classical, jazz and pop, the book captures the time, place, music, and the rhythm of creative expression throughout the ages.
“A fascinating read.”
~~ Toby Devens
Author of the novels My Favorite Midlife Crisis (Yet), Happy Any Day Now, and Barefoot Beach

“In Songs of Joshua Tree, Lauren Eisenberg Davis goes into the desert with a guitar and a goal, and comes out with an impressive work that encompasses just how interictal a part music has played in the desert over thousands of years. From song traditions of native Americans, such as Cahuilla Bird Songs, to the music of incoming pioneers, homesteaders, ranchers, and miners, Songs of Joshua Tree sings to lovers of words, culture, and music alike. Just as cave paintings or historic documents illustrate history, the song traditions examined in this book show how music can both preserve culture and evolve into today’s reality. Sit back and enjoy this love song to a unique desert region.”

~~ Eric D. Goodman
Author of Setting the Family Free, Womb: a novel in utero, and Tracks: A Novel in Stories

Joshua Tree National Park, California
Spring 2014

Songs of Joshua Tree (published November 1, 2019) is a work of literary art exploring music over the course of history in the area that now comprises the park and its surrounds (specifically its gateway towns). The work covers not just historical research but boots-on-the-ground experience.

- Native American era
--- Cahuilla Indians
--- Serrano Indians
--- Chemehuevi Indians
- Pioneer era
--- Homesteaders
--- Miners
--- Cattlemen
- Contemporary era
--- Local musicians
--- Famous musicians
--- Mysticism
--- Social Action

There is an intimacy in thinking that the national parks belong not just to all of America collectively, but to each individual independently. I want to develop an intimate relationship with each park, to be immersed long enough that it becomes comfortable, like an old friend, while always to maintaining a sense of wonder. I don’t go to the park to bring home a T-shirt or a wildlife guide book. I bring home something intangible from each park I visit: a oneness with the specific natural beauty of a unique place and time, and an understanding of the importance of the park in history and ecology; and I leave behind a little bit of myself at each one, because the journey changes me.