When just the index to a book runs to nearly 100 pages, you know it’s no lightweight. This Penguin Guide finally does for blues what they’ve been doing for jazz for over a decade, providing an authoritative catalogue of blues CDs on an artistby- artist basis. From Abernathy (Marion) to Zinn (Rusty), each entry offers a biography and incisive reviews of key recordings, with a clear rating system. The comments are often highly opinionated (which is fine) but with five people involved, there’s a good balance.
The listings span more than 80 years of music, and don’t neglect the UK scene (John Mayall gets four pages), but the emphasis is firmly on the black American originals. With a compilations section which alone runs to 96 pages, this is a must for serious blues fans.
If you’ve just woken up to the blues, The Rough Guide is a brilliant introduction, combining a concise history with artist profiles, recommended CDs and playlists to download to your MP3 players. It’s deliberately more ‘modern’ than the magisterial Penguin tome, and includes blues rockers such as Hendrix and Led Zeppelin, along with concise guides to labels, books, fanzines and websites.
Two great books, one small quibble: at these prices, you’d expect hardbacks.