Bruce Cook is the National Observer staff writer who did such a nice job with The Beat Generation a couple of years back (KR, 1971, p. 615). Now he turns his deft expository talents to the ""tough, hard, durable stuff"" he considers the fundamental American music. The book is a personal venture for Cook who grew up in Chicago, the postwar center of the urban, electric blues style, the city where Paul Butterfield learned at Muddy Waters' knee. Beyond Chicago he has sought out the practitioners -- at once legendary and obscure -- wherever he could find them: Robert Pete Williams in Louisiana, little Furry Lewis in Tennessee, Memphis Slim in Paris, and a score of others. In between the interviews and portraits Cook traces the lines of musical descent and influence from the antebellum South to the ""race"" records of the '20's and '30's, to Elvis Presley and Newport and the Rolling Stones. His personal investment in the tradition and his intelligence make this an exceptionally coherent and rewarding quest into the culturally miscegnated American past.