If The Blues Are To Survive, These 3 Things Must Happen

Lyrics must evolve, instrumentation must evolve, and diversity must come to the blues. And there’s something else that’s even more important.

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Lyrics Must Evolve

No less a leading light than John Lee Hooker said this of the blues: “The blues tells a story. Every line of the blues has a meaning.” This sentiment is echoed by so many greats of the genre. Jimmy Rushing said, “The blues tells a story in itself.” B.B. King declared that “when I’m singing, I don’t want you to just hear the melody. I want you to relive the story.” Willie Dixon perhaps put it most perfectly and picturesquely when he said that “the blues are the true facts of life expressed in words and song, inspiration, feeling and understanding.” For poetry, he admittedly has a rival in Wynton Marsalis, who once stated so beautifully that “everything comes out in blues music: joy, pain, struggle. Blues is affirmation with absolute elegance.”

Instrumentation Must Evolve

The tyranny of the overdriven electric guitar must be overthrown. There is a video on YouTube titled “Best guitar duel ever! Joe Bonamassa and Eric Gales.” It’s been viewed nearly a million times. Just this one video. Listen, if you consider yourself a blues fan, and you’re lending repeat views to this horror show, you need to understand that you’re making this genre look horrible to the outside world, and you’re directly contributing to its reputational suicide. If you enjoy watching this ghastly mutual masturbation routine, keep it to yourself.

  1. All Blues: Peter Frampton Band
  2. Redemption: Joe Bonamassa
  3. The Traveler: The Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band
  4. The Big Bad Blues: Billy F Gibbons
  5. Kingfish: Christone “Kingfish” Ingram
  6. The Blues Is Alive And Well: Buddy Guy
  7. Carolina Confessions: The Marcus King Band
  8. Oklahoma: Keb’ Mo’
  9. Out Of The Blues: Boz Scaggs
  • Larkin Poe — Venom & Faith
  • Robert Randolph & the Family Band — Brighter Days
  • Sugaray Rayford — Somebody Save Me
  • Southern Avenue — Keep On
  • Bobby Bland: Two Steps From the Blues (vocal)
  • Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown: The Original Peacock Recordings (guitar & violin/fiddle)
  • Champion Jack Dupree: Blues from the Gutter (piano)
  • Eddie ‘Cleanhead’ Vinson: Kidney Stew is Fine (saxophone)

Diversity Must Come To The Blues

This is a big one. Let’s start with some listener numbers. In a 2015 article titled “Selling the Blues: Current Condition of the Blues,” the following stats were cited:

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The Concept

Bringing diversity to the blues isn’t really about bringing more races, ages, or genders to the music. It’s about bringing more mindsets to the music. If we’re going to “save” the blues, we’re going to have to “think” our way forward. And to do that, we’re going to have to ensure we have a far broader array of minds at work in the lab.

“We made up our songs about things that was happening to us at the time, and I think that’s where the blues started.” — Son House

“Music is your own experience, your own thoughts, your wisdom. If you don’t live it, it won’t come out of your horn. They teach you there’s a boundary line to music. But, man, there’s no boundary line to art.” — Charlie Parker

“My definition of Blues is that it’s a musical form which is very disciplined and structured coupled with a state of mind, and you can have either of those things but it’s the two together that make it what it is. And you need to be a student for one, and a human being for the other, but neither of those things alone do it.” — Eric Clapton

“The blues is an art of ambiguity, an assertion of the irrepressibly human over all circumstances, whether created by others or by one’s own human failing.” — Ralph Ellison

“How can you be an artist and not reflect the times?” — Nina Simone

Singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist , poet, writer. Vintage guitars, vintage typewriters, new Moleskines.

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