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Everyone knows the story of the Delta blues, with its fierce, raw voices and tormented drifters and deals with the devil at the crossroads at midnight. In this compelling book, Marybeth Hamilton radically rewrites that story. Archaic and primeval though the music may sound, the idea of something called 'Delta blues' emerged in the late twentieth century, the culmination of a longstanding white fascination with 'uncorrupted' black singers, untainted by the city, by commerce, by the sights and sounds of modernity. Written with exquisite grace and sensitivity, at once historically acute and hauntingly poetic, the book is an extraordinary excavation of the blues mystique and provides a deeper understanding of the place of blues within wider American culture.

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Book Details

ISBN: 9780712664462
ISBN-10: 0712664467
Format: Paperback
(183mm x 129mm x 16mm)
Pages: 256
Imprint: Vintage
Publisher: Vintage Publishing
Publish Date: 3-Jan-2008
Country of Publication: United Kingdom


US Kirkus Review » Affectionate look at the primal music of the black South that too often reads like a college dissertation.During the last few decades, the blues, one of only a handful of indigenous art forms in the United States, has been more appreciated in the U.K. than here at home. The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, the Who and even the Beatles lived a significant chunk of their musical lives as blues bands. So when it comes to attempting to cobble together a definitive history of Delta blues, who better than a Californian who migrated to London? Expat Hamilton (When I'm Bad, I'm Better: Mae West, Sex, and American Entertainment, 1995) certainly knows her stuff: She can wax nostalgic with authority and enthusiasm about everybody from the otherworldly Robert Johnson and effervescent Huddie "Leadbelly" Ledbetter to jazz showman Fats Waller. But is that enough to make her sophomore effort an essential piece of blues literature? Almost. Despite the fact that Hamilton's tome is a labor of love, her prose is a bit dry - especially frustrating considering her vibrant subject matter - and she relies too heavily on previously published sources. Since old-school blues has been dissected to death - Peter Guralnick did it first and did it better - she would have been better served injecting more of her own personality. But the author's heart is in the right place, and her sincere love for the music shines through.Useful bite-sized history suitable for the blues newbie. (Kirkus Reviews)

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Author Biography - Marybeth Hamilton

Marybeth Hamilton was born in California and teaches American history at Birkbeck College, University of London. She is the author of When I'm Bad, I'm Better: Mae West, Sex and American Entertainment.

Books By Author Marybeth Hamilton

In Search of the Blues by Marybeth Hamilton

In Search of the Blues

Paperback, June 2009