[Blues today]

Mike Curtis ironman@MOONLINK.NET
Thu Jun 18 15:49:35 EDT 1998

Vincent Vialard wrote:
> Fred Dabney wrote:
> >
> > Moving on, however, doesn't mean moving up.  Some of the work of the
> > pioneers will never be beaten, but there are many musicians that do work
> > just as good, just different.
> Seems like I'll have to question once more:
> Who wants to beat anybody out there ?

Read the ads.  A LOT of musicians, and a lot more of the fans.

Look at the bragadocio included in many bios and press releases.  "The
best <instrument-player> since <highly-regarded-or-legendary-player>",
ad nauseum (excuse the pun).  And even the past couple of days, we've
seen it right here on the list.

I think I'm like most folks.  I don't care one iota who an artist is
better than.  I just care whether I like their music.  I have found that
too many artists touted as "better_than/the_next <so and so>" simply
have nothing of their own to say.

No one has ever sold me a CD because they were "better than <so and
so>".  Much of the best blues is done by less than stellar musicians.
In fact, many artists highly touted as being "better than <so and so>"
have proven to be a pyrotechnical yet lukewarm rehash of <so and so> and
were highly disappointing to me, so I don't bother with these.  Have any
of you had similar experiences?

And FredD's right.  You can't compete today with the ghosts of
yesterday.  Who's the better pitcher, Cy Young, or Greg Maddux?  We
could argue until the cows are all used up at McD's (they're on their
third cow, you know ;-), but unless you can put them head to head,
batter to batter, team to team, and time to time, it can never be
answered convincingly.

Today, we have as history the work of the pioneers.  When they made the
history, it hadn't yet been done - basically they invented it.  Today, a
copier can study the works of all the pioneers and learn to skillfully
imitate.  Back then, these pioneers innovated and came up with a new
form of music, or new flavors of it.

If Lemon Jefferson, Charlie Patton, Robert Johnson, Son House, et al,
were part of the current generation, do you think they'd play the same
style of music?  I state with the utmost confidence that they would
not.  Why?  Because the music they played back then was not old and
commercially obsolete music at that time.  It was new, fresh - and
POPULAR!  Lemon Jefferson made a tidy living playing the blues, having a
fancy car and driver, etc.

BTW I'm not at all knocking these musicians and their music.  I like it,
too.  But a fast way to kill off most parties these days is to spin
Robert Johnson all night.  "Sheesh, Mike, this old stuff is the pits -
don't you have any MODERN music we can dance to?"  But in that time and
place, these folks WERE modern music, and the modern folks of that time
did indeed dance to this music.

Do I think "old blues" is a museum piece?  I've been giving that a lot
of thought lately.  My gut reaction is to defensively say "no".  But
realistically and honestly, I'd have to answer "yes".

  *** BUT ***

I don't see this as a bad thing.  Rather, it is GOOD that we value and
cherish this fine art, and preserve it for posterity while enjoying it
through recordings and artists who choose to carry on the traditions of
Museums are honorable places, where things of high value are preserved.

It's great that we still have old blues and R&B on the radio, that it's
being rereleased on CD, and new fans are trickling in as the result of a
lot of work by a lot of sincere folks.

IronMan Mike Curtis     The One Man Blues/Jazz Band
CD Available @ Tower, http://www.towerrecords.com, others
Sound bytes etc. at http://www.geocities.com/BourbonStreet/Delta/8830/

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