Other Places: Blues On The Rocks In Chicago?

“When Will the Blues Leave?” Ornette Coleman asked the question in 1958 by way of the title of a piece in his first album. In Chicago, of all places—the blues stronghold of the Midwest for nearly a century—the question is implied in concerns of musicians and club owners who are trying to keep the form alive economically. In a long weekend piece in The Chicago Tribune, music critic Howard Reich surveys the blues club scene in the Windy City.

How long can a music that long flourished on the South and West sides — where the blues originators lived their lives and performed their songs — stay viable when most of the neighborhood clubs have expired? How long can a black musical art form remain dynamic when presented to a largely white audience in settings designed to replicate and merchandise the real thing?

Reich’s story has several photo and video sidebars that make it a sort of mini-documentary. To read (and view) the whole thing, go here.

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  1. Rob D says

    I am an avid blues fan, but I confess there isn’t much happening in the genre that is all that exciting. I love the old Delta sounds, the Texas guys like T-Bone Walker who swung the blues and the gritty urban blues of many of the Chicago guys as well as the jump blues of Louis Jordan and Lionel Hampton. For a while, the Mississippi hill country “trance” thing had me under its sway with Jr. Kimbrough, R.L. Burnside and Jessie Mae Hemphill weaving their spells. I got to see most of them live in the Clarksdale, MS area and at Jr.’s Club. That whole generation seemed to die off within a decade and the scene left in their wake seems to be more about hip-hop fusions and psychedelic rock than anything blues-like in nature.

    There are a lot of great soul/blues records that feature the likes of Johnnie Taylor and Little Johnny Taylor, as well as many Sam Cooke clones, and there are tons of great artists who stayed with the times and incorporated whatever was popular in the AA scene of their time.

    I listen and collect more Black gospel than blues now and know many other blues fans who are doing the same. I think the genre is failing to produce young players with substance, originality and just sheer showmanship (which has always been part of the blues experience..check out the classic bluesman/woman’s wardrobe on their album covers..lol..Jr. Wells is a good subject). After a while, you realize you’ve heard the best of the best and its not worth listening to a third rate singer banging out “Mustang Sally”