Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Delta Blues-Where the Music Meets the Soul

Delta Blues is one of the earliest styles of blues music. It originated in the Mississippi Delta, a region of the United States that stretches from Memphis in the north to Vicksburg in the south, the Mississippi River on the west to the Yazoo River on the east.

The Mississippi Delta was fertile ground for the roots of the blues. With its history of racial oppression, the Klu Klux Klan and Jim Crow laws, with baking heat, rampant poverty and illiteracy, the delta was a cruel place for many African-Americans well into the middle of the 20th Century.

The songs and music of the early Delta blues were passed down orally, in written form, and later preserved in field recordings made by traveling musicologists such as the father and son team of John and Alan Lomax in the early 1940's. The earliest blues recordings were made in the 1920's, but very little recording took place in the Mississippi Delta area. Delta blues musicians headed to northern cities for recording sessions, then headed back home to the Delta to continue playing juke joints, fish fries and dances.

The Delta area has produced the largest number of important and influencial blues artists. Although it was never a major center for the music business, its is still the emotional heart of the blues for musicians, travelers, fans and historians. Some of the more famous Delta blues musicians were Charlie Patton, Tommy Johnson, Son House, Robert Johnson, Bukka White, Elmore James, Skip James, Willie Brown, Muddy Waters and Mississippi John Hurt, to name a few.

The defining characteristics of Delta blues is instrumentation and the emphasis on rhythm and "bottleneck" slide; but the basic harmonic structure is not substantially different from that of blues performed elsewhere. The vocal styles range from introspective and soulful to passionate and fiery. The early recordings consist mainly of one person singing and playing an instrument, though the use of a band was more common during live performances.

Take a trip through the Mississippi Delta region and as you travel through this historic area, see if you can feel the heart and heartbeat of the music, the people, the events and the culture that make up the Delta Blues..

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