Author Art Tipaldi is a senior writer for Blues Revue, so you'd expect this book to be a collection of featurette type articles on the various blues-rockers the magazine likes to promote. In some ways that's the case, but it also does go deeper than that, there's a concept, a unifying theme of how the blues tradition has been transmitted and learned by 49 present day performers.
The pieces are split into several geographic sections: Texas, East Coast and West Coast, and the book leads off with "Real Fathers, Real Children, Chicago & The South". This section features players with some real blood ties, like Luther (and his son Bernard) Allison, guitarists Johnny Copeland (his vocalist daughter Shemekia), Lonnie Brooks (sons Ronnie & Wayne), Raful Neal ( son Kenny) and Jimmy D Lane, son of Jimmy Rogers. Lil Ed Williams is here as the nephew of slide guitarist J B Hutto, while Kenny Brown can legitimately be considered the adopted son of R L Burnside, who he's backed for years. Charlie Musslewhite is included in the section for his first hand apprenticeship time with the Chicago masters.
The other sections include people like Marcia Ball, Delbert McClinton, Tommy Shannon (bassist with both Johnny Winter and Stevie Ray Vaughan), Kim Wilson, John Hammond, Bob Margolin, Duke Robillard, Robert Cray, Keb Mo, Rod & Honey Piazza and Junior Watson-in other words a fairly eclectic mix of contemporary people on the blues circuit. Each piece runs between 6 and 9 pages, and covers a bit of each artists background, with the focus being on how and where they learned to play. Guitarists Debbie Davis and Coco Montoya both spent time in Albert Collins band, though a few years apart, several others worked in some of the same bands over the years, many were in backup bands for traveling blues veterans.
A common thread is that few players, if any, ever got any actual lessons from their blues forefathers; at best they were allowed to sit alongside them at the piano bench, or were told to "watch my hands till you get it". Taj Mahal recounts how Chicago guitar/harpist Louis Myers gave him the opening riff he used on "Leaving Trunk", saying "okay, I'm gonna play this once." Harpist James Harman tells of sitting in a car with Walter Horton and playing for him, when Horton didn't like a phrase, he'd kick Harman in the leg-so it was learning by bruises. Others tell of being thrown off the deep end when they were hired into existing bands, and finding their first gig was 400 miles down the road, later the next day. One of the main themes that comes through is that the music is transmitted by life experiences as much as by learning fingering patterns-and most of the players included here have a healthy respect for the music and are making a conscious effort to repeat and include its history in their explorations.
None of the pieces has great depth, but the cumulative effect is a survey of the current scene. There are no great revelations here, but there is a sense that the flow of the music is still running deep.
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