BLUES FROM THE DELTA by William Ferris


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The Mississippi Delta--Vicksburg to Memphis--is one (but not the only one) birthplace and continuing hometown of pure country blues, the earthy twelve-bar laments of a lone black man and his bottleneck guitar, complaining 'bout his woman, dreaming of goin' to Chicago. So Ferris, a white Mississipian, spent nine years interviewing and recording surviving or thriving Delta bluesmen and offers here a rough mosaic that scrambles the scholarly with the dry-dirt real: some history, some anthropology (diagrams of rooms), some structural analysis, but mostly the spoken and sung words (even the handwritten letters) of the bluesmen themselves, in blues sessions at ""jook joints"" and house parties. Included are the transcripts of an ""alternating contest"" in obscene verses and a three-hour house party--demonstrating the ""make-up"" flexibility, overlapping jokes, and audience responsiveness of the blues. Ferris touches on the contemporary musical influence of bluesmen and appends vast biblio- and disco-graphics, but his brief study really succeeds only as a disjointed evocation of an expressiveness that needs no academic commentary: ""I got up from my sick bed because I was too poor to die/ Now ain't that blue?

Pub Date: Feb. 10th, 1977
ISBN: 0306803275
Publisher: Anchor/Doubleday