The History of the Blues

Francis Davis, Author Hyperion Books $24.45 (0p) ISBN 978-0-7868-6052-4
Davis, music critic for the Atlantic, treats the history of the blues with an emphasis on his own involvement with this music. He believes that attempts to discover the origins of the blues, often based on simplistic theories about slavery and Africa, are inconclusive, and he stresses that the interaction between recordings and the actual music makes it difficult to follow the music's internal development. He touches on the issue of white involvement with the blues and concludes with an elaborate ``Blues Timeline'' showing how significant dates in blues history relate to developments in jazz, pop, theater and literature as well as to important events in American history, arts, sciences and technology. His impressionistic text rambles at times, but numerous passages on individual performers such as Blind Lemon Jefferson, Charley Patton, Robert Johnson, Leadbelly and others are engaging, as are accounts of his trips to Memphis and Mississippi to see where it all began. Selected discography. Photos not seen by PW. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 01/30/1995
Release date: 02/01/1995
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