The other day I had one of my co-workers stop by my little corner of the warehouse where I put together kits for the production line. As normal, I had music playing in my area. That is usually where I listen to the discs I have purchased or CDs that have been submitted for BluesNotes reviews. What I usually refer to as my homework. Anyway, the guy makes a statement, “Man, there is only so much blues you can listen to, don’t you ever get tired of it?” In short, the answer is no.
The blues has so many different directions and sounds. If you grow too tired of listening to one at any given time, there are dozens more you can choose from. Think about it. Traditional Chicago blues with Muddy Waters or Howlin’ Wolf one day, then you can take a trip to Louisiana the next for classic R&B, a little Mardi Gras street parades or zydeco, then maybe jump to Kansas City for a bit of horns and jump blues. There’s the intricate acoustic stringwork of Piedmont, the trance hill style of North Mississippi, or the rockin’ blues of the British bands of the 60s and 70s. The West Coast has its swing feel in Southern California which is completely different than the sounds you hear from the Bay Area or the Northwest. From the Delta to the raga blues of Harry Manx, or the Brazilian music explored by Charlie Musselwhite, or even the deepest of origins stemming from Malian artists in Africa, many still performing today in areas of that country where music has not yet been banned by religious extremists trying to overtake the government. And this is only touching on a handful of many blues expressions.
The blues has grown world-wide and with each location there is a unique flavor all its own. It is the variance of interpretations, what the individual performer feels within them. It’s very personal and it’s social, or as Jimi Hendrix said, “The reflection of the world is blues,” meaning the artist tells it like it is from their own view and stance, be it happy or sad. It may be an old music in the realm of modern days, but it evolves like everything else. The catch phrase “keeping the blues alive” is a nice rallying point, but honestly the blues is not a dying art form. It has always been around and it is the birthplace of all those other popular styles of music whether they want to acknowledge it or not. Kind of like most media outlets today promoting music; it’s everything but the blues. To them I say, “Hey, the blues is not going anywhere, open your eyes and ears and give it a listen. You might actually enjoy it if you give it a chance.”
So back to my original thought. Is there only so much blues you can listen to? Of course not, there is a seemingly endless number of artists and variations of the genre. It is certainly not the only music I listen to. I have a wide open mind when it comes to listening to all types of music. I’ll give it all a chance, but like everybody else I’ll have my favorites and my dislikes. To each their own. Just don’t pigeon-hole the blues into the stereotype of being a tired old music form. If that’s the way you feel, you’re not paying attention to what is being created here and now.
Okay, I’ll step off my soapbox now.