An appreciation of the blues

Published 8:03 pm Thursday, October 3, 2019

Last night, I was lucky enough to attend ArtsRevive’s “Snapshots, Stitches and Selma Blues”.

Being a member of the press, I’m sometimes afforded the luxury of attending events like this, free of charge, provided I do my job and put whatever event it is in the newspaper.

Last night was one of the finer events I’ve attended in Selma.

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“Snapshots, Stitches and Selma Blues” was a celebration of all things blues, a genre of music which is near and dear to my heart.

Roger Stephenson, one of the event’s featured artists, clearly shares my appreciation of the art form, as he made a career of photographing these musicians while performing.

While speaking with Stephenson, I learned he was born in England in 1944, where he discovered the blues through the BBC’s broadcast of Alan Lomax’s recordings of blues musicians in the American south.

Being born in 1995, I came to love the blues in a much different way. 

When I began to appreciate and discover music beyond what was playing on the classic rock station in my dad’s pickup truck, I discovered that many of the English rock and roll bands I loved had grown up hearing Lomax’s recordings the same way Stephenson had.

After learning about Keith Richard’s fascination with Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf, it became suddenly obvious that without the blues, The Rolling Stones wouldn’t even exist.

After learning about Howlin’ Wolf and Muddy Waters, I fell further down the rabbit hole and discovered more obscure blues musicians like Junior Kimbrough and R.L. Burnside.

It’s so easy to lose yourself in the loneliness of those recordings.

Not in a desolate, hopeless way, but in a way that makes you realize other people feel the way you do too.

What I love about the blues is that it takes something painful, life, and translates it into something beautiful, music.

There’s a scene in the Les Blank film “The Blues Accordin’ to Lightnin’ Hopkins” in which a man singing is brought to tears in the middle of the song he’s playing with Hopkins.

Not just a single tear rolling down the cheek, but convulsing sobs on his knees.

The blues has the power to do that. 

Thankfully, I wasn’t brought to my knees in tears at the Carneal Building last night.

It’s unbecoming of a reporter to sob at public functions.

It really meant something to me though to be in the presence of so many people who turn pain into something beautiful.