March 2010

Shirley Griffith: An Esoteric Blues

I was visiting Chicago last summer with the intention of finding an apartment. I stopped into a bookstore of ill repute and was just looking around – I wound up snaggin The Picture of Dorian Gray simply by virtue of my not having read it previously as opposed to possessing some innate inclination to getting through it. Anyway, at the time, I knew two people in the entire, sprawling town. Somehow, though, I ran into a girlfriend from high school who still lived in another state. She was there on business.

The chance of that meeting was probably pretty slim – I’m bad at math, so I won’t attempt any construction of an equation for it all. But the random happenstance stuff that we all just find odd, over time, has really defined each of us as individuals. Without those chance happenings, I know that my entire life would be different today.

Brownie McGhee x Sonny Terry: An Acoustic Blues

There are only a few blues players that possessed the ability to record over a few decades, maintain a coherent sound and have listeners not be able to guess at the date a track was set to tape. A recording’s fidelity has something to do with that, but Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee were able to perform a unique spread of tracks from the American song book for the better part of the 20th century and remain vibrant over the decades while doing it.

Buddy Guy Gits Down in Chicago

As any one genre progresses, it’s easy to lose sight of the folks that first helped to solidify the form. Countless players have been lost to time and only the lucky ones resurface later on either as a result of uncovered recordings or just dogged persistence.

Blues players have perhaps suffered the most in light of the genre’s longevity. Of course, the fact that a huge portion of the blues that existed in any worthwhile capacity was set to record prior to the ‘40s. And while that seems reductive since there’s been seventy years of recorded music since that time, what folks do now is update a codified sound.

There are some folks, though, that are so adept at that as to warrant a career renaissance or two. Buddy Guy didn’t ever really go away. He was there alongside some of the greats and went on to inform ‘60s musicians as much as any other performer.

Elmore James Gits Blue

Due to the nature of the recording industry, a huge number of second or third generation blues players didn’t see proper album releases. Of course, their predecessor’s didn’t have anything other then 78s to work with, but at the dawning of long player’s economic viability, some of the players that remained saw work cobbled together and issued as some surreptitious full length. The fact that most of the albums constructed in this manner were culled from various and sundry recording dates didn’t result in too many of the discs becoming more than a piece of history. Surely, some are pillars in the progression of blues, but that might in part be because that’s all we have.