Album Review

visions of the blues

Various - Visions of The Blues

Visions of The Blues - Various

Oxford American Winter Edition 2017


    This is a very different review, however if you are a music fan, searching for good music this is the place for it.  This fantastic magazine of Southern writing in prior years has, with its winter edition made it a music edition; each year the music came from a different Southern State, i.e. Georgia, Texas etc..  With this edition you received a CD and the artists would be associated with the state emphasized.  The great thing is the artists ranged all over the place and I have never met anyone that knew of all the artists on the CD.  For instance on the Georgia CD you go from the obvious, James Brown, Otis Redding, Henry Mancini, and The Allman Brothers Band;  to equally good artists whose names were far less familiar, such as Elf Power, Tut Taylor, to Alice Swoboda, all equally good, but just unfamiliar names.  We have never met an issue where there wasn’t a new favorite discovery or two.  


    This year they changed it up and went with a type of music, that seemed a blessing in a way, as this years disc is Visions of The Blues, one of my favorite genres of music, and we couldn’t wait to see what arrived.  The small surprises are the surprises we cherish, new discoveries in one of the oldest genres of American music.  This edition exceeded all expectations and yes some of the names are the ones you would expect; Charley Patton, Koko Taylor, John Lee Hooker, Bonnie Raitt, but then there were people you may have forgotten about; John Fahey and Allen Toussaint; and those you never heard of such as Alexis Zoumbas (wow), Barbara Dane, and Ida Cox with Colman Hawkins Quintet.  

For instance we love the Blues and both of us have followed the music from when we were wee tykes in different area of the country, and now we are seniors and there were 7 artists on here neither of us have ever heard of!  And there were some new artists we want to follow up on: raise up your hand if you know of Alexis Zoumbas, a Greek violinist who recorded his killer piece of violin blues in 1926!!!  And the killer of the whole thing is you are exposed to new, though it might be way older than you are, and different music that is capable of taking you to different places, and different perspectives and you get the magazine, which is some  superlative writing, which gives you background on the music and or artists.  You can’t purchase the disc separate from the magazine but at $15.95. You can order the issue directly from the Oxford American:

(grab it now it sells out quickly)


These words from Maxwell George, OA's managing editor, will give an even clearer picture of what their vision for this issue is:  “The mission and scope of this production is contained in the title: “Visions of the Blues.” Very consciously, we do not call this “the blues issue,” because we’re not attempting to present the genre comprehensively. Instead, we’ve gathered a collection of distinct stories and songs, memoirs and profiles, essays and artworks—visions—that each channels a unique perspective on blues music.”  This just about says it all.  The stories are oft times the background to the music, and also ancillary to the music. 


In all honesty I look forward to the music issue each year, to open me up to even more new music however I subscribe to the magazine year round, wonderful writing and then the music issue is an early Christmas present, holy night.  


by bob gottlieb