American Blues Music has a long and storied history. From the Mississippi Delta to the Chicago blues scene, the best of American blues music is steeped in tradition and innovation. In this blog, we explore the best of American blues music, from the classic sounds of Muddy Waters to the contemporary stylings of Keb’ Mo’.
The Origins of the Blues
The blues is a style of music that originated in the Deep South of the United States around the 1870s. The genre is a combination of African-American folk music, spirituals, and work songs. The blues has influenced a wide range of music genres, including jazz, rock and roll, and country.
The Mississippi Delta
The Mississippi Delta is a region of the United States that stretches along the Mississippi River from Memphis, Tennessee, in the north to Vicksburg, Mississippi, in the south. It is considered the birthplace of the blues, a style of music that developed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries from the work songs and spirituals of African American slaves.
The most famous blues musician to come out of the Delta was W. C. Handy, who popularized the blues with his song “St. Louis Blues.” Other notable Delta blues musicians include Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters, and B.B. King.
The term “Piedmont” originally referred to the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. The region extends from Virginia to Alabama and covers parts of North and South Carolina, Tennessee, and Georgia. Piedmont blues is characterized by its distinctive guitar style, which uses a thumb pick and finger picks on the upturned hand. This playing style is known as “Piedmont guitar” or “Travis picking”.
The Spread of the Blues
The American blues is a genre of music that originated in the Mississippi Delta in the late 1800s. The style is a combination of African musical traditions, including work songs, spirituals, and thefolk music of white Americans. The blues spread from the Delta to other parts of the country, including Chicago and New York City, in the early 1900s.
The Great Migration
The Great Migration was the movement of six million African Americans out of the rural southern United States to the urban Northeast, Midwest, and West between 1916 and 1970. Driven from their homes by a combination of poor economic opportunities and Jim Crow laws, black Southerners left in search of a better life. The result was the rapid growth of urban sealants—New York City, Detroit, Chicago, Philadelphia, Cleveland—and the transformation of American culture.
In the early 20th century, most blues musicians came from the Mississippi Delta, a region of intense poverty and racism. sharecroppers—farmers who rented land from landowners in exchange for a percentage of their crops—lived in small houses on plantations near the Mississippi River. Life was hard work with little reward; even with a good harvest, farmers often found themselves in debt to the landowners. The blues reflected this difficult reality; songs like “Hellhound on My Trail” and “Staggerlee” tell stories of desperation and violence.
The Great Migration changed the sound of the blues as well. In Chicago, electric guitars and amplified harmonica replaced acoustic instruments, giving birth to a new style known as Chicago blues. Muddy Waters and Willie Dixon were two of the most influential artists to come out of this scene; their recordsinspired a generation of British musicians, including The Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin, who would go on to create their own version of the blues.
The Harlem Renaissance
During the 1920s, a cultural movement known as the Harlem Renaissance began in the African-American community in Harlem, New York City. The Harlem Renaissance was a time when African-American music, literature, art, and culture flourished. One of the most important genres to emerge from this period was the blues.
The blues is a type of music that originated in the African-American community in the southern United States. The blues has its roots in work songs and spirituals that were sung by slaves. These songs often dealt with themes of feeling blue or downhearted, which is where the term “blues” comes from.
Over time, the blues developed into a distinct musical style, with its own characteristic sound and feel. The blues is typically played on a twelve-bar chord progression, with each bar containing three beats. The lyrics often follow a simple AAB pattern, with each line consisting of eight syllables.
The Harlem Renaissance was a time when many African-American artists began to experiment with the blues, and it was during this period that the genre began to gain popularity beyond the African-American community. In addition to being performed in small clubs and bars in Harlem, the blues was also being played on radio stations and recorded by record labels.
The Golden Age of the Blues
The Chicago Blues
The first recordings of what is now called Chicago blues took place in the city in the 1920s, when Chicago was becoming a major center for African-American music. These recordings were made by white record companies for black audiences. The first wave ofChicago blues recordings featured artists such as Ma Rainey, Bessie Smith, and Louis Armstrong.
The British Invasion
The British Invasion was a musical movement of the 1960s, when rock and pop music acts from the United Kingdom and other parts of the English-speaking world, became popular in the United States and significant to the rising counterculture on both sides of the Atlantic. The Beatles were at the forefront of this trend, which also saw such artists as The Rolling Stones, Herman’s Hermits, The Animals, and Dusty Springfield achieve great popularity.
The Modern Blues
There are so many great American blues musicians out there, but who are the best of the best? In this article, we’ll be discussing the modern blues scene and some of the best musicians it has to offer.
The Electric Blues
The electric blues typically uses a 12-bar blues progression and is played with amplified electric guitars, bass guitar, and drums. “Electric” refers to the fact that instruments are generally plugged into a guitar amplifier and speaker. The distinctive sound of the electric blues is created by the amplifier, which adds new frequencies not naturally present in the original acoustic guitar or harmonica. This style of blues became very popular in American cities such as Chicago, Memphis, Detroit and St. Louis during the 1920s and 1930s. Electric blues bands often featured a lead guitar player supported by a second guitarist playing rhythm guitar and an upright bass player.
The first use of amplification in blues recordings was by bandleader and pianist Jaybird Coleman in 1929. He used an old Victrola horn-type speaker connected to his low-voltage amplifier to project his piano sound over his band’s regular instruments during performances at Chicago’s South Side club Sabella’s Nightclub. Coleman’s recordings for Columbia Records in 1929–30 were some of the first commercially issued electric blues records.
The Blues today
The blues today is very different from the blues of the early 20th century. While the older style was deeply rooted in African-American culture, modern blues has been influenced by a variety of factors, including other genres of music such as rock and roll, jazz, and country. As a result, the sound of the blues today is very diverse, with artists experimenting with different styles and making the music their own.
Despite these changes, the blues remains a powerful force in American music. It continues to be popular with audiences around the world, and its influence can be heard in many different genres. If you’re a fan of the blues, or just curious about this unique form of music, there’s no better time than now to check out some of the best modern blues artists.