Blues in Boston - Far from sad

Blues in Boston - Far from sad
September 10, 2009
Brian D. Holland

"The blues is sad music."

Although it’s a common opinion people have, it immediately reveals that they’re not very familiar with the musical style. It’s a statement that genuine fans of the genre laugh off, primarily because they know better. Of course, just like any other musical style that stirs emotion and tells stories of life, sorrow does emanate from the lyrical messages from time to time. But more often than not, the blues has a tendency to be much more joyful than sad. And also contrary to the abovementioned popular statement, it possesses great potential to cheer people up, those who were previously sad for other reasons. Listen to the music of Boston’s own Ronnie Earl. Considered by many to be one of the greatest blues guitarists in the world, there’s a healing power in his guitar playing that many will attest to, myself included. A spirituality presence exists in his music as well, which only coincides with healing, and there’s certainly nothing sad about that. All of this can be perceived in the lovely gospel voice of Toni Lynn Washington as well. Her soothing, lovely blues performances occur regularly in Boston venues.

Delta Generators

Of course, the fact that the blues began in the southern part of the USA near the end of the 1800s can't be ignored. It was a simple yet ingenious style of folk music born of the hardships and everyday life of early African Americans; the creation of slaves and those who worked the cotton fields and the docks. Nevertheless, even they saw it as an entertaining art form, a way to vent and relax. And more than anything, it was and still is a means of expression. The lyrics and the music work hand in hand in telling amazing stories, both happy and sad. While a slow blues can bring tears to one’s eyes, a lively one can trigger smiles and bring everyone to the dance floor. You can hear it in the acoustic music of Racky Thomas, in his voice as well. The Massachusetts native has a seasoned style that depicts the hardship and pain as though he’s living it at that moment. His respect and adoration for the music is blatant in every performance. Racky and his band perform in many venues all over Massachusetts and New England. And if it’s dancing and goodtime music you’re looking for, jump blues connoisseur Duke Robillard is often nearby as well. And look for the band he originated, Roomful Of Blues. A dynamic group that has been stimulating venues and dance halls throughout New England for over forty years, they’re still going strong today.

What’s extremely interesting about the blues is its ability to stem off in different directions and progress. A blues improvisation can journey almost anywhere. That’s how jazz began. And the great Muddy Waters once stated that “The blues had a baby and they called it rock ‘n’ roll.” Though a play on words, it’s undoubtedly true. And it all happened through the art of originality, and taking the music to another place. Taking the music elsewhere, yet with the amazing ability to stay true to form as well, can be perceived through the onstage performances of this year’s Boston Blues Challenge winners, Delta Generators. These four guys rock the blues as good as anyone.

An interesting and lively scene exists in the greater Boston area. Stay in touch so I can keep you abreast of what’s happening in the local blues scene.
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