Understanding Blues

The English language doesn’t do justice to Blues. In its most literal sense, Blues as a word refers to regret, betrayal, misfortune and the sorts. You dog dies, you get the blues. You lose your job and you definitely get a bout of blues. But, that’s not what Blues lyrics deals with. In fact, Blues music is about overcoming adversities. It is far from self-pity as the literal sense would have you believe. It is about letting lose, dealing with frustration in life and just having fun.

Some critics say that blues as a form of music is starkly emotional, cathartic and visceral. The music can take you on a rollercoaster ride from unbound happiness to deep sadness in a matter of seconds. There truly is no other form of music that can communicate such vast amounts of emotions.

Blues has a deep root within American history, especially the African American history. Originating from Southern plantations in the late 19th century, this form of music was for the slaves, descendants of slaves and ex-slaves. Naturally, the origin story of blues music deals a lot with African chants, folk songs, rural life, drum music, country dance and hymns.

Blues and Jazz both came out of the Mississippi Delta and they have heavily influenced each other over the years. In fact, these two genres continue to influence each other in countless ways even today.

However, unlike Jazz, blues did not spread its wings in haste. It moved from the South to the Midwest and then gradually made its way into Chicago blues with electrifying tracks. Some places it went into more of a hybrid with jazz influence but a decade later, it eventually morphed into totally different genres of rock n roll plus rhythm n blues.

Unlike other genres, the birth of blues has no father or singular entity. Several people can lay claim to the discovery of the genre. From WC Handy to the other stalwarts. They all can be accredited with kick-starting this particular genre.

From a not too technical standpoint, almost all blues music can be identified by its use of 12 bars of music. There is also a set series of notes that is repeated in any blues music and these notes or sequences are called the blues notes.

Speaking of Blues, there were some stalwart pioneers of the genre. Right from Blind Lemon Jefferson, Charlie Patton to Leadbelly and Robert Johnson. These stalwarts usually performed solo with a guitar. At times they did team up with other bluesmen for one-of-a-kind performances.

As time went by and notable Blues figures moved across the country, the genre began to differentiate and morph into new genres. Here are a few well known blues forms.

Traditional Country Blues

The term used to classify any rural blues originating from Piedmont, Mississippi Delta and similar rural areas.

Jump Blues

Characterized by danceable music, this form of blues is the precursor to R&B. The pioneer of this genre is considered Louis Jordan.

Boogie-Woogie

Mostly piano based blues with Pete Johnson, Albert Ammons and Meade Lux Lewis being its biggest proponents.

Other than these major delineations of the blues, there is Chicago Blues, Cool Blues, West Coast Blues, Texas Blues, St. Louis Blues, Memphis Blues and the sorts.