Friday, August 27, 2010

Delta Blues, by Ted Gioia

I just bought a copy of Delta Blues, The Life and Times of the Mississippi Masters Who Revolutionized American Music.  The book was written by Ted Gioia and published in 2008 by W. W. Norton and Company.  Already, Delta Blues has received rave reviews including those published in The New York NewTimes, Rolling Stone, Living Blues, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Publishers Weekly, and the Dallas Morning News. The book's cover even bears a seal identifying it as "A Book Review Notable Book of the Year - The New York Times."  Nice...... 

I actually chose Delta Blues as a gift for someone special who loves blues music and its history. But since I also like blues and its amazing history, I just had to flip through its pages to see just what this book is all about. Well, let me tell you this: Delta Blues is destined to be a must-read for blues enthusiasts everywhere.  And it will likely become required reading for certain degree programs that focus on music and history.  The book is also a perfect fit as reading material in courses that explore society and culture, particularly Southern culture. 

Contained within the book's 449 pages are chapters named for some of the best known blues songs around, including "Hard Time Killin' Floor" and "Hellhound on My Trail."  Other chapters are named for locations in Mississippi that are significant not only to those who follow the blues trail, but to others who like to delve into the state's history and its influence on the development of blues as an art form.  Examples of these chapter names are "Dockery's Plantation," "Where the Southern Crosses the Dog," and "Parchman Prison." Also included in the book are a dozen or so black and white copies of actual photographs of some early blues musicians. One such photograph was taken in H.C. Speir's store in Jackson, Mississippi, a place, according to the book, that was a "magnet for blues musicians such as Robert Johnson and Skip James, who came record...."  

By writing "Delta Blues," Ted Gioia has superbly chronicled the history of a music style he believes to be "the most influential musical tradition America (has) produced." Gioia's early training was in jazz and piano, but he developed an early interest in blues music. Ultimately, it was this interest in and his lifelong dedication to exploring the history and influence of the Delta blues that led to writing this book that is destined to become a classic.

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