Monday, August 27, 2007

Deep Blues

With its unfailing bad weather, the Edmonton Bluesfest seems to signal the end of summer. It isn't the last of the summer festivals - that honour belongs to the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra's Symphony Under the Sky on Labour Day weekend. But the last notes echoing from Los Lobos' guitars into the dark and cold of Hawrelak Park last night meant: it's over. Put the sunscreen away. Park the RV. Order the ski pass. Think snow.

The Bluesfest is known continent-wide as a pretty pure "blues" festival, and an excellent one. Edmonton audiences are knowledgeable blues fans, and even more important - they show up! If you want to dig a little deeper into the blues, you can't go wrong with Robert Palmer's classic book, Deep Blues: A Musical and Cultural History from the Mississippi Delta to Chicago's South Side to the World. The book is from 1981, so you won't find anything about the Blues today, but Palmer's digging into the roots of the Blues is a must-read. Deep Blues has no pictures however, so you might want to pair it with a book like Bill Wyman's Blues Odyssey, a coffee-table look at Blues history, full of great photos and illustrations.

Or if you don't want to read at all (!!), there is Martin Scorsese's 2003 PBS documentary series, Martin Scorsese Presents the Blues: A Musical Journey. The famed director, a Blues fan, commissioned himself and 6 noted directors to make films about the Blues. Some films are better than others, some are a bit slow in spots, but taken as a whole this is an excellent place to learn about the Blues. Here's the list of the films:
  • Feel Like Going Home directed by Martin Scorsese and written by Peter Guralnick
  • The Soul of a Man directed and written by Wim Wenders
  • The Road to Memphis directed by Richard Pearce and written by Robert Gordon
  • Warming by the Devil's Fire directed and written by Charles Burnett
  • Godfathers and Sons directed by Marc Levin
  • Red, White & Blues directed by Mike Figgis
  • Piano Blues directed by Clint Eastwood
Many people complained that there wasn't enough performance footage when the series aired on PBS. The beauty of the DVD set is 3 hours of "special feature material" including full-length live performances not televised (B.B. King, Otis Rush, Koko Taylor, Willie Dixon etc).


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home