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Customer reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
Blues: A Regional Experience
Format: Hardcover|Change
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on June 13, 2013
Bob Eagle & Eric LeBlanc's book has been in gestation since the 1960's, when they started doing this research, so the fruits presented to us here are exceedingly bountiful. Nearly 600 pages jam packed with heavy duty facts'n'info that allow you to browse by state, by eco-region (ie by local culture and ignoring state boundaries which makes a lot more sense and sets the tone for the whole project). OR you can browse by date of birth OR you can just look up someone (almost anyone, it seems..) in the very thorough index. What this means is that you now, for the first time, have a serious piece of Blues Genealogy at your fingertips, the like of which has never been attempted before. The authors have also included a separate section for the woefully overlooked Vaudeville artists, making this probably the single most useful resource for that era. In many cases ancillary and very handy information is also contained in an artists entry along with the bare bones of birth, marriage(s) death etc. The only issue I have with it (and this is NOT the authors fault) is in the publisher's somewhat odd marketing approach; It's a hardback, which is nice, but the cover is purple and features a recent photo of BB King on the front. It therefore looks at first glance like the latest edition of the All Muzic Guide to Da Blooze. It honestly deserved a far better presentation; it ought to have been packaged like BGR, next to whch it should automatically sit on your shelves as soon as you get it- and it IS that important IMHO....I could witter on much further but I don't need to; here's the deal; BUY IT or I'll send the lads round to persuade you of the error of your ways
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on October 10, 2017
This is a must-have for any serious blues fan or historian. It documents every musician who has ever been involved with playing the blues, from the beginning to the current generation. It is extraordinarily and painstakingly researched, uncovering details about their lives that experienced genealogists find. As its title suggests, it is unique in being organized according the various regions in the country that nurtured the blues. As bluesmen and women learned from others surrounding them, their unique musical styles were influenced and developed. And each region had its own musical micro-history that is best told locally, rather than by a general history of the blues.
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on June 28, 2013
I agree with the previous two reviewers that this is an excellent book. The classification
by ecoregion is an innovative and fruitful idea. But the most important contribution lies
perhaps in the authors' approach to obtaining biographical data like birth and death dates
and locations. Experience has taught us that we cannot always rely on the information
supplied by the artists themselves, especially when it comes to their birth dates. With the
help of [...], Eagle and LeBlanc have based their research on the original
sources of official records of the USA, like the US Census and birth and marriage certificates.
As a result, a lot of "existing wisdom" about the birth date and birthplace of many artists
will have to be corrected.
The result of more than fifty years of research, this is a tour de force. An essential reference work.

Dik de Heer
Leiden, the Netherlands
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on June 18, 2013
World renown, unexcelled blues experts Bob Eagle and Eric S. LeBlanc have delivered an exceptional gift to the blues community and beyond. Combining their many decades of experience with and dedication to the blues, they have created a masterwork of authoritative and accessible scholarship. Besides the most accurate biographical information including birth and death dates, they have approached the organization of artists mostly by "ecoregions" rather than strictly chronological or by styles. The result is a brand new, revealing way of presenting the history of the blues that will revolutionize the conventional wisdom. It gets the highest recommendation and belongs on every blues lover's book shelf.
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on November 12, 2014
This book is the result of an immense amount of hard work. Dates and locations of birth and death of a huge number of blues artists are given. That's why it is an _essential_ purchase for any serious blues researcher.

It should be noted that the commentary (as opposed to the artist entries) is generally not particularly reliable, and often not reliable at all. I would recommend that any young, serious fan of the blues literally ignore this book's commentary.

As a random example: If according to Gayle Dean Wardlow's research, Sam Collins played and lived in southern Mississippi, and also ever visited Kentucky, why do the authors volunteer "Another example [of a mistake] is to identify Kentucky-based Sam Collins as a Mississippi performer...," in a brief section early on in the commentary purporting to illustrate that the authors are more careful in their approach to regionalism than others are? Eagle's friend Sheldon Harris identified Collins as born in 1887 and active in southern Mississippi in his similar, 700-page-plus reference work published in the 1970s. Collins isn't listed in the index to this book.

As another random example: the dedicated researcher of black folk music Newman White had it figured out in the 1920s that 16-bar AAAB songs had been popular and accepted as blues as of about the 1910s. The authors' one-sentence attempt to describe 16-bar blues songs conflates them with "blues ballads" (so-called "blues ballads" are also known as bad man ballads), and pointlessly brings up a supposed particular association of these 16-bar blues with white performers. How much does the fact that the black performers Blind Lemon Jefferson, Rev. Gary Davis, Furry Lewis, Skip James, Johnie Lewis, Big Bill Broonzy, Thomas Shaw, Leadbelly, Mississippi John Hurt, Bo Carter, L.V. Thomas, Peg Leg Howell, Pink Anderson, Bobby Grant, Will Shade, Henry Thomas, John Bray, Will Chastain, William Harris, Tom Bell, Barbecue Bob, Butch Cage, Tom Johnson, James Lowry, Willie Hill, Marshall Owens, James Diggs, Jim Baxter, John Cephas, Johnny Watson, Blind Willie McTell, Henry Johnson, Edward Thompson, William Moore, Texas Alexander, Edna Johnson, Cecil Barfield, Tom Bradford, Bob Coleman, Elizabeth Johnson, Thomas Burt, John Jackson, Elizabeth Cotten, Blind Boy Fuller, Charley Jordan, Reese Crenshaw, Walter Vinson, Mance Lipscomb, Jesse Fuller, Lucille Bogan, Big Boy Cleveland, Sam Butler, Lightnin' Hopkins, Dorothy Baker, Lesley Riddle, Isaiah Ross, Sonny Terry, and Wiley Barner, among others, performed 16-bar blues with repetitive lines of lyrics within the stanza (most often AAAB) have to do with _white_ artists? Those black songs evolved out of earlier black songs similar to the 16-bar AAAB variant of "Poor Boy Long Ways From Home" that Emmet Kennedy heard blacks sing in Gretna, Louisiana by about 1905.

As a third random example, in the "vaudeville era" section, there is an attempt at a discussion of supposed evidence of blues origins in Mississippi earlier than in Texas. By the way, once blues music existed, there was actually _no_ era that was a "vaudeville era" and not an era when countless non-vaudeville blues artists were also performing: "vaudeville _era_" is literally meaningless in the context of this book. To what extent does e.g. Peg Leg Howell learning songs in the country and in jail and performing them on the streets and in parks, to what extent does Peg Leg Howell's music being "of special interest because they clearly represent the transition from old songs, work songs and [folk] ballads, into blues" (Paul Oliver has written), to what extent does that mean Howell belongs in a "vaudeville" section?? Anyway, that discussion comparing Mississippi to Texas reads like a blues article from four decades ago, does not take into account modern research into where blues music was before 1911 -- e.g., Antonio Maggio recalled that he heard a black guitarist play a 12-bar strain with "Blues" in its title in Louisiana in 1907.

Howard Odum and E.C. Perrow's collecting of black folk songs from before 1910 shows a correlation between the earliest known folk blues lyrics and mentioning being being _arrested_ or in _jail_. W.C. Handy, who was born in 1873, wrote in 1919 (emphasis added): "[I]t is from the _levee camps_, _the mines_, _the plantations_ and other places were the laborer works that these snatches of melody originate." On another occasion he recalled that the 12-bar harmonic form associated with the blues had been used before him by "Negro _roustabouts_, _honky-tonk_ piano players, _wanderers_ and others of the underprivileged but undaunted class." Mary Wheeler's collecting shows that songs similar to the "Got No More Home Than A Dog" that Handy recalled hearing well before 1900 (in _Indiana_) were sung by _river roustabouts_. Handy wrote: "Clarksdale was eighteen miles from the river, but that was no distance for _roustabouts_. They came in the evenings and on days when they were not loading boats. With them they brought the legendary songs of the river." The earliest published partly 12-bar "Blues" is from _Louisiana_. The earliest known reference to "blues" as a type of music, referring to a different tune, is also from _Louisiana_. The second-earliest known reference to "blues" as a type of music is from an _Indiana_ newspaper describing a performer who was currently in _Florida_ and had recently been in west _Tennessee_. Elbert Bowman heard a variant of "K.C. Moan" sung by black _construction workers_ in _Tennessee_ by 1905. Taking all that into consideration, note that the authors of this book illustrate interest in cotton fields in particular in this book. Why? Because one or both have been influenced by Alan Lomax, who actually wrote as early as the 1940s that he thought the fertility of the soil in the Delta had to do with musical fertility (!), was influential on other writers for decades, and admitted in the 1990s that his work had been affected by the fact that he was a "romantic"? (There is no actual evidence at all that blues music originated in the Yazoo-Mississippi Delta. Lomax was extremely influential when he pretended otherwise anyway.)

If you personally care about doing your own research into blues history, by all means buy this book, and keep in mind the dates of birth listed for people like Andrew Baxter, Will Slayden, John Bray, Leadbelly, Henry Sims, Hosea Woods, Cow Cow Davenport, Bo Carter, Jesse Fuller, and many, many others when analyzing the _chronology_ of blues history. Definitely don't expect to learn that John Hurt or Hacksaw Harney played similarly to Elizabeth Cotten or Willie Walker, or that Andrew Baxter knew a similar song to one Will Shade knew, because of what _region_ they lived in. Because that's not why. Songs and other tunes traveled across the South fast. Blacks worked on boats, trains, traveled looking for work (levee work, turpentine camps, etc.), learned songs in honky-tonks, and then there were Handy's (and Odum's) wanderers, too. Songs traveled fast across the South -- and up and down the Mississippi/Ohio Rivers -- well before about 1907 (when the black folk songs about having the quote "blues" arise into our view), and just before about 1907, and just after about 1907, and long after about 1907. (B.B. King says himself that the artists who influenced him most weren't from his region.) Regionalism has been overrated as important to understanding blues and pre-blues for many decades, and this book is very much more of the same in that regard. Chronology _is_ very, very important to understanding what went on, and if you're interested in the likes of Andrew and Jim Baxter's "K.C. Railroad Blues" in its historical context, this book can help you on that by telling you when they were born. (It doesn't try to tell you much at all about most artists' careers.)

In addition to being traditional with regard to an overemphasis on regionalism, the book is also traditional in almost entirely ignoring white artists, so if you'd like to do anything like notice that "Georgia Blues" by Samantha Bumgarner (who was about 24 years older than Son House) is similar to John Snipes' "Going Away From Home," or that "Goin' Where The Climate Suits My Clothes" by John Carson (who was about 29 years older than Son House) can give us similar context on black music, or ditto with a related tune that George Walburn (who was about 15 years older than Son House) knew, or learn about Wade Ward (who was about 10 years older than Son House) who recorded vocal and instrumental versions of the "Chilly Winds" family of songs that W.C. Handy and others have written about as very early, and so on, naturally you'll have to find a book that doesn't almost entirely ignore white artists.

Use all the great nuggets, the result of a ton of hard work, in this book as starting points for your own research. And whatever you do, don't assume an artist is of little importance in understanding early "real" blues just because he or she is for some mysterious reason listed in the "vaudeville" section. (And don't for some reason imagine that an artist is not important if not even mentioned in the book. Freeman Stowers and Washington Phillips, e.g., were both more than 25 years older than Robert Johnson and both made historically important, commercially released blues recordings.)
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on September 30, 2017
This is a very nice update for The Blues. Starting from the 1600's up to 2016. Every Blues Lover need this book to add to their Blues Collection.

Sharon Y. Newport
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on November 27, 2013
Book was great binding was not right. I had to tear the cover open because the binding was misaligned and the glues was not properly applied.
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on November 5, 2013
Thanks so much for writing this EXCELLENT book! It will be rewarding people in so many ways for a very long time. Providing researchers with great documentation of birth dates and birth places of blues artists with such specificity is an INVALUABLE favor you have done for many of us. Assembling credible biographical information supported by facts is so important. I can't tell you how much this helps me in my own research.

I have been researching blues performers from the Delta portion of the Arkansas River Lowlands which runs in the river corridor for about 90 miles in length from just outside Little Rock down to Pine Bluff (Jefferson County) to about Dumas, Arkansas (Desha County). This area is a COMPLETELY forgotten area regarding blues even though it is part of the Delta. In Arkansas, there is far more information about blues artists within close proximity to the MIssissippi River. I am writing a book on music in the Lowlands region with a goal of exposing the local public to the great legacy that comes out of the area. While I knew of several people listed in the book from our area, there were some others I had NEVER known about. A great example of this is Sippie Wallace and her brother George Turner. These are early blues legends who have been listed for years as coming from Houston, TX. Instead, your book gives never before presented data about their birth roots in the Arkansas Delta. However, you have listed other lesser known artists from Jefferson, Desha, and Lincoln counties that I knew nothing of.....AFTER my own extensive researching over several years. In fact, none of the source material I have located in the state has the names of some of these people you have listed in your book. This will be a new info for all Delta blues researchers. What a great find!

While information is readily available on the major blues artists, many of the important, but obscure, early performers have s much misinformation about them. Because lazy or uninformed biographers assumed an artist was from an area or took an inaccurate birth date from another dubious source, they ended up documenting this as such and inaccurate material followed their and other written biographies of artists for decades following. This book relies on no such information but rather painstakingly documents each morsel of information. And where the author is unsure of something or has to assume because of limited available information, he says as much.

This book is just one of the best sources for personal info on blues performers that I have ever seen, particularly, on some of the lesser known artists. I can't thank the authors enough. So glad I stumbled upon this book online. I'll tell others about this for sure.
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