From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Gioia (The History of Jazz
) succeeds admirably in the daunting task of crafting a comprehensive history of the art form known as the blues, depicting the life story of the music from its cradle in the Mississippi Delta all the way to its worldwide influence on contemporary sounds. His sweeping examination focuses on the legends in detail, including Charley Patton, Son House, Tommy Johnson, Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, Howlin' Wolf, B.B. King and many more. He often deconstructs myths, such as the story that both Tommy Johnson and Robert Johnson made midnight deals with the devil at the crossroads, and digs deep to clarify many murky stories, including untruths and wild speculations about the life and early death of Robert Johnson. His narrative follows the northern migration of the blues to Chicago, where Muddy Waters recorded for Chess Records, and along the way he analyzes the influence of Delta blues on Elvis, the Rolling Stones and other rock 'n' roll icons. Gioia dissects many songs, but he doesn't write beyond the understanding of general readers, creating the rare combination of a tome that is both deeply informative and enjoyable to read. (Oct.)
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"...the passionate blues singing of Mississippi's steamy cotton fields ultimately gave rise to rock'n'roll. Ted Gioia expertly traces its colourful history and heroes." Books of the Year 2008, The Economist "[A] rich and illuminating study... Gioia, who has researched thoroughly and listened carefully, does a splendid job of telling the story on a broad canvas..." Mick Brown, The Daily Telegraph "Gioia's depth of research is breathtaking...The author's sheer passion for the music comes through on every page, and you can almost hear those old shellac 78s as you read his descriptions." thebookbag.co.uk "He uses original research, interviews with reliable sources and his own calm, argument-closing incantations to draw a line through a century of the Delta blues." International Herald Tribune "Gioia's intermittently brilliant and always compelling investigation of the blues is marked with a musician's ear for the form and a fan's enthusiasm for both the recordings and the artists." The Herald