Thursday, November 13, 2008

The Book on Delta Blues

Does the world really need another book about the history of the Delta Blues? Ted Gioia thinks so. "Delta Blues" is Gioia's sixth non-fiction book. His "The History of Jazz" was selected as one of the twenty best books of 1997 by Jonathan Yardley in The Washington Post, and was also chosen as a notable book of the year in The New York Times. Gioia’s new book, "Delta Blues", published in October by Norton, is getting good reviews too.

Here's an excerpt from Ben Ratliff's November 7 review in the New York Times:

The chapter on John Lee Hooker — and here Gioia really hits his stride — deals with Hooker’s endless variations on a one-chord groove, but also with the profligacy of his recording career. He could make dozens of records in a single year, some under different names, sometimes lending himself to producers who had no idea what to do with him. There’s an embedded narrative here about the way certain blues musicians — not just Hooker, but Son House and others — might have taken too much pride in the quantity of their work, and not enough in the quality, as an emotional defense against exploitation. But there’s another, too, about the opportunism of both Hooker and his employers. Gioia follows Hooker to the end of his long life with a clear fascination for even some of his lesser achievements, through his ’70s recordings with Canned Heat and his Grammy-winning final days.

And in this YouTube video, Gioia himself explains what motivated him to write "Delta Blues."

Gioia is in Oxford tonight at 6 p.m. at "Off Square Books" 129 Courthouse. Tomorrow night at 5:00 he's in Jackson at "Lemuria Books" off I-55 North.

This may be the latest of many books, but it's certain that it will not be the last word on the Mississippi Delta blues.


Anonymous said...

Looks like an interesting book. I have to get through my Mance Lipscomb and Earl Hooker ones first, though. This is some McDowell footage that I've never seen, but McDowell didn't play in the Delta style. He was a Hill Country Blues artist, wasn't he?

Nolan said...

It's a very good book. He speaks with and or quotes all of the past major blues researchers and keeps the story moving along.

You're right about McDowell geographically. He was raised in Tennessee but settled and farmed in Como, Ms. That's outside of the Delta. Still Gioia says he played slide in the delta style.