Delta Blues

delta-14

The blues are the roots and the other musics are the fruits.  Without the roots, you have no fruits, so it’s better keeping the roots alive because it means better fruits from now on.”
Willie Dixon

Goin’ Down to the River – Mississippi Fred McDowell

There is an enormous influence of the Mississippi Delta on the blues…  It’s talking about the place physically:  the heat, the hard work, the mules, the cotton.  It’s talking about the place metaphysically:  the devil, mojo, the churcha God who seems to have turned his back on the bluesmen, or certainly the field hands.  And it’s talking about the place sociologically, too.  It’s talking about how no good deed goes unpunished, how the power is all in somebody else’s hands

delta-7

It couldn’t have come from someplace else.  It came out of the cotton fields.  It came out of walking behind a mule.  It came out of living a sharecropper’s life and coming to settlement time and not making any money.  All of those things combined to influence the blues.”
Luther Brown

“The blues, it jus’ keeps goin’ on, goin’ on… Know why?  ‘Cause the blues is the story of life and the spice of life.”
Mississippi Fred McDowell

You Gotta Move – Mississippi Fred McDowell

That ability of the music to connect with universal feelings of desire, love, loss and bitter disappointment makes the blues fertile soil for so many of our greatest writers. The search for that emotional truthbeing both in the moment and apart from it, is the peculiar territory of literature.

Bluesmenfrom the griots of Mali to the itinerant poets of the Mississippi Deltaare more than musicians; they are storytellers. And blues lyrics are underappreciated as poetry. Hearing them in the context of a song, they carry an incantatory, if momentary, emotional power. But on the printed page, a song like Robert Johnson’s Hellhound On My Trail has the lasting literary impact of a poem that seems as if it were written not just for the elusive pleasures of a juke joint on a Saturday night, but to express, in a way that speaks to eternity, a personal reckoning with matters of longing and fear as well as deep observations about the existential tension of being alive: caught between a restless soul and a hunger for peace.

You Can’t Lose What You Never Had – Muddy Waters

“The best blues songwriters pack a whole lot of narrative into such simple lyrical patterns, as the blues has a way of telling its own story. Good love gone bad, evil women and worse men, alcohol, poverty, death, prejudice, despair, hope, the devil, and the search for better days figure into many blues songs.”
Robert Santelli

Pride & Joy – Stevie Ray Vaughn

There are happy blues, sad blues, lonesome blues, red-hot blues, mad blues and loving blues. Blues is a testimony to the fullness of life.”
Corey Harris

“There is only life, lived, set to music, rendered into words.”
Christopher John Farley

[Unless otherwise noted, excerpts taken from Foreword by Alex Gibney, Martin Scorsese Presents: The Blues]

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