Blues Music Musing: On Target
I make jam posters every week. My Mac lets me use a dropper to choose a single color pixel from a special guest’s promo photo to change the page color. Sometimes it’s the cherry red of a Strat, a bright yellow highlight on a funky button-down gig shirt, or a perfect match to the curvy pink lips of a gorgeous singer, but I try to keep it blue. It’s only appropriate. I run a Pro Blues jam.
I think of Blues as a target genre. Not that the intertwining circles are defined, but probably general rings that bleed into one another. And while you might like to move these names around, it’s like there’s an inner circle of classic Blues artists most people are familiar with. Household names, (at least in America,) like Muddy, BB, Etta, Buddy, Hendrix, Clapton and Diddley. Then there’s a circle just outside of that of people who just plain like Blues, and they might know Tedeschi Trucks, Keb’ Mo’, Joe Bonamassa, Gregg Allman, John Lee Hooker, Koko Taylor, Robert Johnson, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Howlin’ Wolf, Son House, Little Walter, Freddie King, Willie Dixon, Albert Collins or Big Mama Thornton. The circle just outside of that are real Blues aficionados. They know Beth Hart, Johnny Winter, Taj Mahal, James Cotton, Bobby Bland, Robert Cray, Junior Wells, Charlie Musselwhite, Kenny Wayne Shepherd and Johnny Copeland. Just outside of that circle, there are contemporary Indie artists that true Blues lovers and people in the Blues music industry are probably more familiar with like Gary Clark Jr., Shemekia Copeland, Bobby Messano, Dave Fields, Robben Ford, Coco Montoya, Janiva Magness, Popa Chubby, Ana Popovic, Tommy Castro, Tab Benoit, Anson Funderburgh, Walter Trout, and Joe Louis Walker. Then just outside that is a whole host of Indie Blues artists some people have heard of, and some indie artists most people will never hear of, and that’s pretty much where my band is. For now anyway. Thanks to our completely awesome Indie Radio friends and social media platforms, a few people all over the world have actually heard my stuff! How exciting is that??
Where this metaphor ends is that you can’t say what constitutes Blues music is a target. With a field of so many varied artists, one absolutely may not point to a bulls-eye or inner circle and say, “This is what the Blues is.” Just because everyone knows an artist, doesn’t mean the genre is defined by them. It means they’re very talented and had some consistent marketing and money to back them. Doesn’t mean those folks run the whole genre with their singular influence, (no matter how you interpret what Eric Clapton is quoted to have said about being ‘responsible for keeping the music alive.’)
Lately, my jam posters have been several different cool shades of blue plucked by the Mac Page Color dropper from artists’ jeans, shirts, guitars, etc. So, I looked it up. Officially, it looks like there are 69 varieties of blue, and infinitely more actual shades of blue. How many different Blue notes, licks, riffs, bends, solos, shuffles, hits, breaks, shouts, grunts, growls, howls, moans, screams, complaints, laments, and tongue in cheek gender ribs are there? Mm mm mm. I love me some Blues. I. Love. Me. Some. Blues. And every Blues artist, old and new, known and unknown, contributes a different shade or coloring to the genre, making listening to Blues music a deep, magical, rich, beautiful, bright, soulful, passionate, knee-knocking, toe-curling full body experience. It clenches your fists, opens wide your palms, raises your arms, makes your hands clap together, shakes your hips, taps your foot, closes your eyes and nods your head in heartfelt agreement. It moves you. As a Blues artist, it is incumbent upon me in a live performance to provide the opportunity for you to be so moved and engaged, and I do it with you – we share it together.
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I’ll step off my soap box. Sorry…I was enjoying a moment there.
Hey, if you haven’t heard of some of the artists above, I highly recommend you step out into the next ring of the Blues target and try a taste. Those artists sure are all on target.