Sunday, 8 February 2015

Delta blues

I love razor-sharp, rough-hewn blues. I especially like Delta blues. It often has tinges of gospel and country. A lot of astonishing music emerged in the 1920/30s black America. Jazz became a recognised musical form. What I find especially touching and stimulating about the blues musicians of this era is that it is totally sincere. They were burdened economically, spurned by a racist and bigoted society and they were pariahs. When they sing about being rejected by a woman or not been able to eat, they really mean it. This is completely opposed to the later stylings of blithe white rock. These people come from privileged backgrounds. When they sing about love and loss, it sounds insincere. The blues singers were idiosyncratic. They had their own style on the guitar - they ranged from the rudimentary to the virtuosic - and their voices were gravelly and rough. This is so because they weren't making music so as to sell it and make money. They made music because they had to, or to entertain their community.  They often killed people to survive. They really experienced a lot of catharsis. This is totally unlike mainstream rock music (especially the hideous subgenre called 'indie') , who are from middle-class backgrounds and are who are not even steeped in any literature or introspection. The burgeoning underground rap/grime scenes have a lot more vitality than a lot of mainstream rock for the same reason that the delta players had vitality.

Spoonful Blues - Charley Patton

Patton apparently was the progenitor of slide guitar, when he decided to slide his knife over the fretboards. His songs are about fistfights, murders and abuse. This song is apparently about cocaine. It brims with passion!

Death Letter Blues - Son House

Son House was the pastor of a church. There is often a sense of being communal in his songs (i.e. songs like 'Grinnin' on your Face'). His songs were often sang a capella. His style on the guitar is unique - it is very rhythmic and he uses his hands to tap on it. His voice is unique.

Jesus Make up my Dying Bed - Blind Willie Johnson

Blind Willie Johnson has become one of my favourite musicans - from any genre. He was blinded after his mother threw acid at his face aged seven. Out of these four players, he is the most accomplished on the guitar, dexterously sliding from note to note, chord to chord.. He sang gospel songs. He was always tormented by guilt and regretted not being a committed believer. When NASA sent a satellite containing a record of music on earth, they included BWJ song (alongside Bach, Beethoven, etc.). When the sun burns out and this planet is no more, I find it incredibly comforting that his song 'Dark was the Night' will still be orbiting the galaxies.

Gallis Pole - Leadbelly

This song is about the fear of being hanged. Leadbelly cries out about being 'hanged on the gallows pole.' These were every day realities for many impoverished blacks. Leadbelly strums on his guitar and produces a gnarled knot of notes. Leadbelly's songs are often closer to country. It was subsequently ripped off by Led Zeppelin

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