08 August 2011

Legends of Country Blues Guitar

Legends of Country Blues Guitar
United States - 1960's
Vestapol Productions, 1994, VHS
Run Time -58 minutes

As a relatively young fan of classic country blues it is always a good thing to find old footage of the originals performing live. Over the years many tapes have been cut together from this festival or that, from this television recording or the other...

Though many of them performed and recorded in the 20's and 30's, all of the footage we have of the country and delta blues artists comes from the 1960's or later. This is because of the revival in interest in United Statesian roots/folk music that blossomed with rock and hippie scenes in that decade. As a result, many of the legends (all of them conspicuously male) of country blues were "rediscovered", re-recorded and re-packaged for a new audience.

For the television programs like American Folk Blues Festival from which this and other videos were made, that package consisted of a bizarre cartoonish interpretation of "black country life" as the producers imagined it. The result leaves the impression of being at a zoo where "realistic" environments are created to make the exhibits feel "at home" while performing. In Legends of Country Guitar Blues however, because it is cobbled from various and sundry films, there is a mix of footage from the black and white era to cleaner color footage. You can get an idea of how the presentation of Black folk musicians to white audiences changed over the years. The first two performances of the video below, Mance Lipscomb followed by Mississippi John Hurt, demonstrate this point well.

Fortunately, thanks to user shimr0b26, you can watch LoCBG in several parts on YouTube.

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