Throughout this month of February, Verse Chorus Verse has largely been devoted to the blues. There are multiple reasons for this. I've been listening to a lot of blues and VCV is, in some ways, a musical journal. I've been listening to the blues because in one week I'll have to finalize my ballot for the 2010 Blues Music Awards. I've also been writing about the blues because February is African-American History Month. I haven't made an overt reference to this, instead allowing it to be left unspoken. The blues drew its roots from the Mississippi Delta and African-Americans and that link is inextricable, but the blues didn't stop there. The music grew and morphed and evolved and became a piece of human history belonging to everyone and no one at the same time How did it happen?
I think David “Honeyboy” Edwards has the answer and it's not a surprise because he is one of our last living links to the roots of the music. At the age of 82, his autobiography was published (as of the writing of this, Edwards is still alive and performing at the age of 94). It is a fascinating read due to its ability to tell not only the story of his life but the story of a music and a chapter of the history of America. It does something more than that, though. Edwards helps to explain and identify what it is about the blues that transcends every possible component that would differentiate and/or divide us:
“The blues is something that leads you, that lays on your mind. You got to go where it leads you. When I was young I'd sit around play the blues, and sometimes it would put me in mind of someplace else. I'd always follow it. I'd get up and go wherever it took me. And everywhere the Blues took me was home.”
The blues is spirit and place and a state of mind. It's a sound, a voice, and a feeling. It's something that stirs within us and leads us and speaks to us. In grammar, it fits every definition for a noun. In science, it has all the properties of matter. It's something that gives us comfort and shelter from the storm. The blues is the truth and you hear that when you listen to Honeyboy Edwards and when you read his autobiography. Some of his tales sound tall and maybe they are, but it doesn't matter. You may hear notes being picked or strummed. You may hear a voice boasting or lamenting. Me? I hear the truth. That's the blues.