View Full Version : A potted recommendation guide to The Blues

02-07-2014, 05:50 AM
Blues came up a lot in the thread about what non-rock/metal forms of music people were into and people were looking for recommendations.

I'm going to do this in a vaguely chronological fashion. Probably a new post for each "era" (not a new thread, this isn't Queensryche), and I'll update the first post with each addition.

In The Beginning: 20s, 30s and 40s America

Actually, it started before the '20s, but nothing was recorded until then, so anything pre-1920 is kind of moot.

Starting point here in terms of what to listen to is obvious. Robert Johnson. No great insight here, everyone knows who he was. He wasn't the first - all of his material was recorded around 1936 and 1937 - but he was the first to make it seriously popular. I also find him the most listenable. Probably the only other artists from the '30s I really listen to are Son House and Mississippi John Hurt, but in both cases they re-recorded most of their stuff in the '50s and '60s to improve upon the original recordings, which was a common thing to do, and those are the ones generally available now. Johnson obviously never got to do that because he died young.

Most early blues, although there were a ton of different styles mostly dependent upon which state you were in at the time, can basically be lumped together as "country blues". All of the ones I've mentioned are "delta blues". For obvious reasons it was all played on acoustic guitars, almost exclusively by African Americans. I tend to find most of the vocals a bit whinny from this period, and quite a lot of the stuff recorded then was accompanied by piano, which I'm not a fan of. I listen to blues for the guitar, and Johnson, House and Hurt played unaccompanied, with some actual lead guitar lines which gives the songs a bit more "fire".

Mississippi John Hurt, like quite a lot of others, recorded several singles early on, but didn't record his first album until the '60s. He's got a much softer voice than House and Johnson, and his guitar playing is a more finger-picking country style.

Getting a cheap CD collection of everything Robert Johnson recorded is very easy, and a worthwhile investment. Similarly there are great compilations of Son House's material available. I personally find the best Mississippi John Hurt disc to be a live album called 'Make Me A Pallett', but again there are complete studio compilations available.

Robert Johnson - The Complete Recordings: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qpevZxy5398

Son House - The Original Delta Blues: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0IhmG7boqes

Into the 1940s and the king for me was Lightnin' Hopkins. He also went on into the '50s etc., but his '40s recordings were also excellent. Again, mostly unaccompanied guitar, with solos, and when he had piano accompaniment, it was just that, accompaniment, and his guitar and voice were still the focus.

Lightnin' Hopkins - The Complete Aladdin Recordings: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q2SMd0_l6vo

02-07-2014, 06:08 AM
Other artists from the '20s, '30s and '40s which might be worth checking out:

Mississippi Fred McDowell
Lead Belly
Blind Willie McTell
Big Bill Broonzy
Tampa Red