|Blues and Country Blues
Some essential notes
The Blues evolved in the early
20th century in the
also known as Traditional Blues or Folk Blues, it is considered
an early form of the genre. It was first recorded in the mid-1920s. There are several
regional styles of country blues, including among others Delta blues from the Mississippi
Delta, Texas blues, and Piedmont blues from the Southeast. Country blues was usually
recorded by a single male singer (sometimes female), self-accompanied on the guitar or
piano, with perhaps an accompanying harmonica or simple percussion. Many of these
musicians had bright, piercing voices. For instance, in his first recordings, Blind
Willie McTell sounded almost like a woman and quite different from what in later years and
until today has often been termed a typical blues voice.
Beginning in the 1930s, blues musicians fell under the influence of urban culture, including popular music and jazz. Combos incorporating piano, guitar, and percussion developed, although the country, "downhome" origins of the musicians were still evident in the music. Major musicians of the 1930s included Tampa Red, Big Bill Broonzy, Little Brother Montgomery, Leroy Carr and Scrapper Blackwell, Lonnie Johnson and Memphis Minnie.
After World War II, the use of electrified instruments became inevitable. During the 1940s, some blues bands even incorporated saxophones, although the preference was for amplified harmonicas, especially in Chicago, a predominant center of blues recording in the 1950s. Blues from this period is often called "urban blues", "electric blues," or simply "Chicago blues." Important urban blues musicians included Muddy Waters, Little Walter, Elmore James, Howlin Wolf, T-Bone Walker, and B. B. King.
Most blues descriptions in literature are referring to the familiar three-line AAB verse form and a characteristic use of the familiar blues chord progression. However there have been at least as many blues songs that do not follow this 12-bar form. Like Champion Jack Dupree used to say: "The only bars I know are the ones where I can drink " or a quote from Lightnin Hopkins: "Lightnin changes (chords/harmonies) when HE wants to change ". Listen to Blind Lemon, Howlin Wolf, Big Bill, Leroy Carr, Homesick James, John Lee Hooker, Robert Pete Williams, Frank Stokes, Blind Willie McTell etc. and you will find countless examples for one chord blues, 8-bar, 16-bar and other song forms.It seems that there are as many attempts to define Blues music as there are musicians, fans, musicologists and other experts. It may be viewed from its historical or social background, from a purely technical point or from a highly personal one. What makes up the Blues seems to be a mixture of style, lyrics, sound, emotional content.
Blues is an African-American music that transverses a wide range of emotions and musical styles. "Feeling blue" is expressed in songs whose verses lament injustice or express longing for a better life and lost loves, jobs, and money. But blues is also a raucous dance music that celebrates pleasure and success.
Central to the idea of blues performance is the concept that, by performing or listening to the blues one is able to overcome sadness and lose the blues.Blues remains with us in contemporary American culture, and as a traditional musical form it has been subjected to countless revivals and reinterpretations. Its current practitioners often integrate the sounds and instrumental pyrotechnics of rock music and the sheen of urban soul; but the twelve-bar form, variations on the blues chord progression, and emotive lyrical content remain relatively unchanged.
"Blues is a natural fact, is something that a fellow lives. If you dont live it, you dont have it ..Young people have forgotten to cry the blues. Now they talk and get lawyers and things." (Big Bill Broonzy)
"The blues is in my blood, you know? I cant play, cant sing nothin else. And I dont want to, cause the blues is for me. Its like a shoe,...you take a number seven shoe you sure cant wear a size four. You wear the one that fits. The blues fit me." (Muddy Waters in "Jazz Monthly", Jan 1959. Quoted in "Blues Off The Record". Ibid. p.261.)"Everybody who dont have the Blues has got a hole in his soul" (James " Yank " Rachell)
main source: Center for Black Music Research, Columbia College, Chicago used by permission