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The Country Blues

3.83 of 5 stars 3.83  ·  rating details  ·  58 ratings  ·  6 reviews
From the field cries and work chants of Southern Negroes emerged a rich and vital music called the country blues, an intensely personal expression of the pains and pleasures of black life. This music--recorded during the twenties by men like Blind Lemon Jefferson, Big Bill Broonzy, and Robert Johnson--had all but disappeared from memory until the folk music revival of the ...more
Paperback, 314 pages
Published August 22nd 1975 by Da Capo Press (first published 1959)
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I relied heavily on this book (but I can't say I read it cover to cover) for a paper I wrote on the blues for an anthropology class now more than ten years ago. I remember thinking that it was excellent. In particular, I loved the textual analysis of blues lyrics.

I found this in my shelf the other day and was struck by a strong desire to reread it. Or actually read it, whichever is applicable.

My sudden interest in re-reading up on the Blues? You could blame it on Zora Neale Hurston & Woody
An interesting book, but definitely more of a relic than a history or an analysis. Many of blues musicians he profiles were still alive when Charters wrote this, and he was able to interview them, but everything is romanticized and embellished to the point where it's no more reliable than 3rd-hand reports. The book is most interesting when you look at it as ground zero for all the bullshit spouted by imitators that rolled out in the 60s. (That was a veiled jab at the Rolling Stones, by the way)

This is not simply a history of country blues or biographical sketches of important bluesmen. A good portion of it talks about the commercial side of the blues and how the style developed not just from traveling musicians learning from one another while playing for other poor African Americans in the rural South, but from recordings, minstrel shows, urban audiences, white audiences, etc.

Note that it's worth finding a 1975 or later edition which has the preface to the 1975 edition. In that prefa
A classic survey, including many profiles of favorite artists, written in Charters' personable, affectionate, insightful style.

First study of the country blues. An easy breezy read and a people's history to boot.
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Samuel Charters was an American music historian, writer, record producer, musician, and poet.
More about Samuel Charters...
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