Preserving the music
Not to underestimate my ability to get myself involved in arguments, but I was surprised nonetheless recently to find myself rousing the ire of a blues legend. This gentleman, not a household word, but known to any in-depth blues fan, and an awesome player (and who will remain nameless) was ranting on Facebook about Ana Popvic, who had posted on Youtube a quite-inauthentic version of the classic One Room Country Shack, complete with pinup pictures of herself, and a reference to “ten foot sacks”.....having picked no more cotton than Ms Popovic, I was nevertheless aware that they are eleven foot sacks...but I was taken aback that this was supposed to be a sign of the Apocalypse, and always ready to defend blonde girls in revealing outfits, made some comment (innocuous, I thought) like “Everybody brings to the music what they can, it's not the end of the world....and are the pictures hot?”....this brought the wrath down on little old me! Good thing I didn't say what I was thinking (which was “It was supposed to end the Blues forever when the let the WHITE GUYS in.....which event should have been ABUNDANTLY familiar to the ranter, who was among the first in that cultural development).
Now I admit that those first few guys went out of their way to immerse themselves in Blues culture, and I would urge the current crop of youngsters to drink in all the nuances of the old masters...but I AM irked that, whenever something new is introduced to the music (be it blonde girls in short skirts or something more substantive), SOMEONE feels the need to protest that you're coloring outside the lines! Let me cut to the chase—leaving aside the question of who appointed guardians for the Blues, my MAIN question is: WHAT PART OF IMPROVISATIONAL MUSIC DIDN'T YOU UNDERSTAND? It would, by definiton, change.....it would, by definition, change all the TIME! Every major Blues book has someone who's “doing it right” and someone else who's a “lightweight dilettante newcomer”....and usually that perspective looks foolish a few years after the fact (I believe it was Charles Keil of Urban Blues fame who brought out a second edition 20 yrs later, in which he apologized for minimizing James Brown in this way!)
This is in no way to assert that any old Blues is just as good as any other Blues. When you have a music of three chords, you had better get used to the fact thats some people can cover those changes without providing us with much value...there's gonna be a whole bunch of chaff....which is to say, stuff you don't like. And, since we can't expect every music listener in the world to immerse themselves in Blues culture, SOME music that seems “lesser” may achieve sizable commercial success (it's said that older Bluesmen were mystified/annoyed by the success of Jimmy Reed...for example).
But, cutting to the chase: The very people who think they're PRESERVING the music are actually holding it back. What's the point of making the circle SMALLER?
Wildcat O'Halloran is a Blues guitarist, singer and songwriter. He has labored, mostly in small clubs for 45 years, trying to keep exciting Blues music in front of the public...mostly in New England (not Mississippi or Chicago). In that time, he has seen Disco lionized, along with Rock Shredders, teenagers with metal-shredder guitars (but with porkpie hats), and blonde girls (though he likes those). He has been called “one of the most entertaing songwriters in contemorary Blues” (LB2011)....and also “might be fun at a party, but NOT a serious blues band”