Keeping the Blues Alive

Alan Lomax doing field recording.
Field recording by Alan Lomax.

Blues music was given rise by the horror of the African-American experience, both North and South. For decades it remained the unheard voice of that  experience  While most white Americans remained ignorant of the blues elsewhere it was gaining a huge audience. In fact, had it not been for attention of European whites the blues may have been killed off by a virus called rock ‘n roll.

Over the decades blues has more than just survived, it has arguably become the world’s music. Every time I’ve gone to the Delta I’m amazed at the number of foreign pilgrims seeking Mecca in Mississippi.

I belong to a couple of blues related Facebook groups and the membership is very international. There’s not an inhabited continent that’s not well represented.

Blues began as the black man’s music but today it is being kept alive by black and white musicians playing to a mostly white audience. I’ve been to a good number of blues festivals and blacks are far outnumbered by whites. I belong to the Cincinnati Blues Society and it is mostly a white organization. Pay a visit to the Delta Blues Museum in Clarksdale, MS or BB King’s museum in Indianola, MS and it will be mostly whites absorbing the displays and buying the t-shirts on the way out.

I just watched a documentary by Alan Lomax titled, Where the Blues Was Born. Filmed in 1972 its subjects weren’t anyone famous. Just black Mississippians relating what life was like in their world and how they used music to help escape or dull the harsh realities of their lives. It is true that most whites have not, nor ever will, experience what these people lived with. But, if the music itself is going to remain viable and vibrant it won’t be due to a black fan base. Rock, rap and hip-hop has seen to that.

Many times I’ve posted works by white bluesmen, mainly Justin Johnson and the French musician, Delbarjo. A couple of others I’d like to draw attention to are Englishman John Wormald (aka Chickenbone John) and fellow Ohioan, Micah Kesselring. Below are sound clips of their music. You will also find videos of both on YouTube. Micah just performed at Buddy Guy’s Legends Club in Chicago and has a new digital album out called, Log Cabin Blues.

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