various artists,
The Story of the Blues:
From Blind Lemon Jefferson to B.B. King

(Quantum Leap, 2004)

It is a tough challenge to tell the story of blues music with any sort of completeness, and this DVD does not purport explicitly to do that. However, in the very beginning of the PBS-style documentary, we are taken right up to the Civil War and given Big Bill Broonzy's "Take this Hammer" as an example of a work song. (That would be like starting off the history of jazz with World War II jitterbugs and using a Louis Armstrong recording of "When the Saints Go Marching In" as an example of Dixieland.)

Such arguments aside, the DVD does a good job at covering the chronology of the blues and fitting in by musical example Blind Lemon Jefferson, Ma Rainey, Elmore James and more. The video footage to accompany the song snippets was well planned so that key nouns in the lyrics reflect in the imagery, making the pictures more engaging.

The Story of the Blues also is a fine introduction to the rudiments of musical theory for the blues and the structure of blues lyrics.

review by
Tom Schulte

12 February 2005

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