This is the best book on contemporary Blues I’ve ever seen. Author Nico Morrison & photographer David Raccuglia have captured the very essence of the “Blues”, people who play the blues and the people who live, love and die by the blues. This book with it’s beautifully grainy B & W photography is a testimonial to the vitality and to the honesty to which these performers bring to their craft, from the Uber-showmanship of “The King Of Rock ‘N’ Soul” Mr.Solomon Burke to Saturday night juke joint clowning with RL Burnside and his neighbors, kids, kinfolk, assorted well wishers and a stray dog or two.This book is just as much a tribute to Fat Possum label owner Matthew Johnson and his tenacity as it is to the people who’re making the music.
For a decade now MJ has carved his own niche in the Blues market and refused to fall into either of these dreaded categories: Musicologist / Folklorist and caterer to the realm of Frat Boy / Party Hearty!!! types who give credibility to the tourist “Blooz” thang. The former being as despicable,if not worse, than the latter in their attempts to pass off this very much alive and very much AMERICAN art form as “Modern Primitivism”at best to dying art form at the worst.
Mutating sure, changing and absorbing outside influences yes, dying no. The latter being mainly ignorant and misguided, though responsible in part for such utter travesties as Memphis’ current Beale St. scene and the souless garbage that passes as “Blues” these days in a lot of the clubs on the North Side of Chicago.
By patronizing these abominations they draw life away from the real Blues scenes under their noses. It may be just as well. I honestly do not want to see one of my fave hangouts in Chicago like the L & L Social Club, Al’s 404 or Bossman’s over ran with all these f***ing geeks anyway. Plainly put, I just don’t wanna party witcha OK? But that’s just me,dig. You stick with Jonny Lang & Stevie Ray, I’ll stick with my Magic Sam & Jimmy Dawkins. While I wholly understand that you CAN like them both, I just don’t. If this is a problem for ya, write me a scathing rebuttal, ignore this or just kiss my ass. Either way, I’m sure that I don’t care.
All my digressions aside, Fat Possum has been recording “Honest” blues for quite some time. Some of their artists may be of quite limited abilities, not able to play much at any given time due to health, money and female problems, they may be unreliable,in jail or too damn drunk to stand up and piss come time to record but hey that’s life and that’s what the blues really is: Life imitating art imitating life. It isn’t just a bunch of weenie fingered, shaggy headed jerks playing some 100 MPH pentatonic scales.
The Blues is, has and always will be about feeling & about soul as opposed to just chops, a fact that’s sadly lost somewhere in that netherworld between well meaning boneheaded folklorists and the “Blues Brother” friday nite, drink and smoke cigars, rub elbows (at a safe distance) with “Black Culture” type boneheads. God amighty, I really do dislike you both.
Anyway, this most beautiful tome of essays and photos along with the 2 CD’s that accompany it, should go a long ways towards separating the men from the boys (please feel free to insert crowbar joke here if you wish, I’m too tired) musically, that is. You receive two of the first tracks RL Burnside ever recorded alongside of killer tracks by Delta heavy hitters like T-Model Ford (who offers up some wisdom as to why pretty girls smell better than ugly ones LOL), Paul “Wine” Jones, Johnny Farmer, Asie Payton, the legendary Robert Pete Williams, Elmore Williams, Junior Kimbrough’s rare track with the late Rockabilly great Charlie Feathers (who had partially learned his craft from Jr. K in that lonesome N.Miss. hill country) and Mr. “Rock N Soul” hizzownbadself: Solomon Burke.
From somewhere between $25 & 40 bucks this can be had, depending on where you look. At either price it’s truly a bargain for the photos alone, much less the CD’s, the first disc being a really good look at where Fat Possum currently stands musically and the 2nd disc being filled with rare, re mixed and otherwise unavailable tracks from the king of hill country stomp: RL Burnside. Smooth as moonshine and more fun than yelling “FIRE!!!” in an overcrowded theatre. Enjoy,y’aaaaaaaaaaalllllllllll.