on June 22, 2004
"The blues - it's kind of like religion, really." - Peter Green
In this companion book to MARTIN SCORSESE PRESENTS THE BLUES: A MUSICAL JOURNEY, a PBS/DVD series, numerous music historians and period writers take on the task of capturing the very essence of the genre that gave birth to rock and roll. Peter Guralnick says in his introduction that the purpose of the companion book was to "reflect and refract the spirit of the blues" and to compile "something deeper and more spiritual than a mere recitation of the facts."
Mainstay blues historians such as Christopher John Farley, Peter Guralnick, Alan Lomax, Paul Trynka, and Robert Gordon have their place in the companion book by contributing their biographical and historical research as well as adding some new information to the blues arsenal. Excerpts from Gordon's CAN'T BE SATISFIED: THE LIFE AND TIMES OF MUDDY WATERS and Trynka's PORTRAIT OF THE BLUES are included alongside new entries such as Christopher John Farley's "Bessie Smith: Who Killed the Empress?" Present day fiction writers like Suzan Lori-Parks and Toure also offer their contributions on the blues and the legacy it left behind.
While the usual historians are included in the book, there also are many mainstream writers who have come across the blues at times in their lives. Among others, there are excerpts from Ralph Ellison's acclaimed INVISIBLE MAN, James Baldwin's FIRE NEXT TIME, and Faulkner's SOLDIER'S PAY. All of these pieces relate to the blues within their own context, and the result is a first hand account of how the blues have affected many.
The blues is an element of American culture that has spawned the genesis of many things from R&B to rock and roll and everything in between. Although the televised version of Martin Scorsese's chronicle of this genre is excellent and informative in its own right, this book affords an experience that can only be garnered by turning pages, scrutinizing photos, and reading and re-reading the bottom line, which turns out to be the blues.
Reviewed by CandaceK
of The RAWSISTAZ Reviewers
on July 17, 2012
I thought this was a very entertaining book with good historical information as well as opinions and blues stories from people who lived or worked with the blues.
The problem I had with this book started with how it was organized. It was not organized chronologically or by artist, but by article. Therefore, a particular artist could be mentioned in several articles in the book, but there was no index to look up which pages the artist was mentioned on!
As an example, I wanted to know more about Elmore James, but unless I thumb through the book, page by page, there was no way to know where Elmore James was mentioned.
This book did not have an index! Even with all of the good information, not having and index was a fatal flaw. I gave this book four stars for the information and two stars for being poorly organized and not having an index.
on November 15, 2008
THIS IS A VERY COMPREHENSIVE, VERY COMPLETE, VERY WELL ILLUSTRATED, AND VERY WELL PRESENTED BOOK ON THE "BLUES". IN CONTAINS AROUND 275 PAGES.
IT STARTS OUT BY COVERING THE MISSISSIPPI "DELTA" BLUES, THEN PROGRESSES TO THE MISSISSIPPI HILL COUNTRY BLUES, AND THEN PROCEDES ON TO OTHER CLASSES OF BLUES INCLUDING "CHICAGO BLUES". THE BOOK COVERS THE PIONEERING LEGENDS OF THE "BLUES" WHO CREATED THIS GENRE OF AMERICAN MUSIC.
THIS BOOK HAS MANY CONTRIBUTING AUTHORS AND COMMENTARIES FROM BLUES JOURALISTS TO THE ACTUAL BLUES MUSICIANS THEMSELVES!!! IT HAS A "WEALTH" OF THIS CONTRIBUTING INFORMATION, GIVING YOU A VERY AUTHORITATIVE, AND VERY AUTHENTIC ACCOUNT OF THE STORY OF THE "BLUES". THESE COMMENTARIES RANGE FROM THE OLD LEGENDARY PIONEERS OF THE BLUES TO NEW CONTEMPORARY "BLUES' ARTIST LIKE JACK WHITE OF THE WHITE STRIPES. IT HAS COMMENTARY FROM ROBERT PALMER (THE ARKANSAS ONE - SEE MY REVIEW ON "DEEP BLUES" DVD).
IT POINTS OUT THAT AROUND THE GREAT DEPRESSION ERA, THAT BLUES REPLACED JAZZ.
It starts with the Miss. Delta Blues by telling the story of Charlie Patton, (the first King of the Delta Blues). It describes how he "WAS LEGENDARY FOR TEARING UP A JUKE JOINT WITH PERFORMANCES ON GUITAR THAT INCLUDED, PLAYING THE GUITAR BEHIND HIS HEAD, WHILE LAYING ON THE FLOOR, OR BY THROWING THE GUITAR UP IN THE AIR AND CATCHING IT,RESUMING PLAY, WITHOUT NEVER MISSING A BEAT"!!!!
Then it covers others bluesman and blues information, like the "KING BISCUIT FLOWER HOUR" was played at noon on radio station in Helena, Ark. in the 40's to play blues for the laborers working on both sides of the Mississippi Delta.
It covers the story of "SON HOUSE". HE WAS A PREACHER AND A BLUESMAN. HE WAS IN A "JUKE" ONE SATURDAY NIGHT AND GOT INTO A FIGHT AND WAS SHOT, SO SON HOUSE SHOT BACK AND KILLED THE MAN. THEN SON HOUSE WENT TO MISSISSIPPI'S PARCHMAN PRISONG FOR A YEAR, BUT WAS RELEASED WHEN IT WAS PROVED HE ACTED IN SELF DEFENSE.
IT TELLS THE STORY OF HOW ROBERT JOHNSON TRIED TO LEARN TO PLAY GUITAR FROM SON HOUSE. HOWEVER, SON HOUSE GOT FRUSTRATED WITH "LITTLE ROBERT", AND TOLD HIM TO GO LEARN TO PLAY THE HARMONICA, BECAUSE HE WASN'T ANY GOOD ON GUITAR. THEN ROBERT JOHNSON "DIAPPEARED" AND CAME BACK TO A "JUKE" WHERE SON HOUSE WAS PLAYING. THEN ROBERT JOHNSON OUTPLAYED SON HOUSE ON THE GUITAR AND BECAME THE "KING". IT COVERS THE MYSTERY OF ROBERT JOHNSON "SELLING HIS SOUL TO THE DEVEL" AT THE "CROSSROADS".
IT COVERS THE NORTH MISSISSIPPI HILL COUNTRY BLUES, AND THE LEGENDS OF R.L.BURSIDE, AND FRED McDOWELL. IT COVERS JIM DICKINSON AND HIS SON LUTHER AND THE CONTEMPORARY GROUP "THE NORTH MISSISSIPPI ALLSTARS" (PLEASE SEE MY REVIEW OF THEIR DVD "KEEP ON MARCHIN'".
IT COVERS ELMORE JAMES, AND THE SLIDE GUITAR TECHIQUE, STEVIE RAY VAUGHAN, THE PAUL BUTTERFIELD BLUES BAND, JOHN LEE HOOKER, KENNY WAYNE SHEPARD, JONNY LANG, SUSAN TEDESCHI AND MANY. MANY OTHERS.
IT COVERS THE LEGENDARY "LEAD BELLY" FROM LOUISIANA. IT COVERS MUDDY WATERS, BOBBY BLUE BLAND, LOUIS ARMSTRONG, HOWLIN' WOLF, BLIND WILLIE JOHNSON, BONNIE RAITT, BLIND LEMON JEFFERSON AND OTHER VISION IMPAIRED BLUESMAN, BLIND WILLIE McTELL (KNOWN FOR THE STATESBORO BLUES - HE WAS A GREAT INFLUENCE ON THE ALLMAN BROTHERS BAND AND DICKEY BETTS). IT COVERS LIGHTLING HOPKINS, SKIP JAMES, MEMPHIS MINNIE, PINETOP PERKINS ,AND IT GOES ON AND ON. LIKE I STATED BEFORE IT IS COMPREHENSIVE.
IT GETS TO "CHICAGO BLUES" AND COVERS WILLIE DIXSON WHO MIGRATED THERE FROM VICKSBURG, MISSISSIPPI. MUDDY WATERS DID SOME OF HIS SONGS. IT COVERS THE STORY OF "HOOCHIE COOCHIE" MAN AND IT'S SEXUAL OVERTONES.
IT COVERS THE ROLLINGS STONES' ADVENTURES INTO THE BLUES.
IT EVEN COVERS MARCIA BALL FROM NEW ORLEANS, ALONG WITH DR.JOHN, PROFESSOR LONGHAIR AND B.B. KING.
IT HAS A STORY ABOUT CHRIS THOMAS KING WHO WAS IN THE MOVIE "O BROTHERM WHERE ART THOU?"
AS I MENTIONED, IT IS VERY COMPREHENSIVE, THERE ARE MANY MORE BLUES ARTISITS IN THE BOOK AND MANY MORE BLUES STORIES. THIS IS A GREAT REFERNCE BOOK ON THE BLUES. IF YOU LIKE THE BLUES, OR AMERICAN MUSIC HISTORY, YOU'LL LIKE THIS BOOK, ITS WELL ILLUSTRATED AND EASY TO READ AND FOLLOW. I HAVE LEARNED ALOT ABOUT THE BLUES FROM THIS BOOK, I ENJOY READING IT AND THEREFORE, I DO HIGHLY RECOMMEND IT!!! ITS A GREAT BLUES BOOK!!!
on May 31, 2008
Martin Scorsese's book takes the reader on a musical journey of the blues. He really provides several blues perspectives from musicians, writers, film producers, and several other sources. I am using this book for my thesis in literature. Dr. Reginald Martin from the University of Memphis often references this book in his African American Literature courses. This book really captures the true essence of the blues people, culture, and music. It is also a companion to several films. It is an invaluable resource!