I’ve had a couple of friends talk to me about getting into the Blues lately and the one thing they all complain about how hard it is. It’s a bizarre contradiction; most Blues fans can talk passionately about their favourite artists and tracks but finding a way into the genre is almost impossible.
It might have something to do with the fact that most music stores lump Blues in with ‘World Music’, ‘Easy Listening’ or, if they’re especially small/apathetic, ‘Other’. It might also have something to do with the glut of middle aged, white Blues-accountants who’ll dismiss you quick as you can say Robert Johnson for not having the latest Scorsese box-set pre-ordered.
But fret no longer new-comers. In my on-going quest to talk about the music I love until a court order is taken out against me, I’ve prepared the following must have intro to the Blues.
Son House – Death Letter
Son House will always hold a place in my heart. Robert Johnson might get the credit for being the quintessential Bluesman but an early recording of this song graced the Library of Congress archives before he was even born. He released 21 albums over the course of his long, strangely clean-lived life. Most of these were recorded live in the traditional Delta Blues style.
The song is a typically Son House mix of Christian soul-searching and emotive, rhythmic slide guitar. It also features that fine Blues staple: the dead true love.
Fleetwood Mac – Coming Home
Rumours might be the best selling album of all time but FM’s earlier, perhaps less well-titled album, The Pious Bird of Good Omen is where the true Blues gems can be found. From the distorted electric slide intro and right through its distorted twelve bar blues Coming Home is 2 minutes, 38 seconds of twenty four carat Blue.
Rory Gallagher – I’m Not Surprised
Rory Gallagher is, in this humble writer’s opinion, the greatest electric guitarist the world has known, in any genre. Having said that, I couldn’t decide between songs for just one to recommend, Bad Penny is great, so are Loan Shark Blues and Tattoo’d Lady. I decided that as his back catalogue was so flawless I’d recommend one of his more unusual songs.
I’m Not Surprised is genuinely tender. It tell the familiar story of a man wronged by his woman to a backing of honky-tonk piano and acoustic guitar. Unlike most of the 1970s Blues, this is something you can put on and relax to... although it is equally at home played on an old jukebox in a smoky bar room.
So that’s it for now. Go, listen, enjoy, then tell your friends about these great songs. I hope I’ve given you a range of styles. These are three of the greatest songs ever written. However, even as I write that another twenty spring to mind, so I dare say there’ll be a part 2. The only question now is what would you have on your list?