In Search of the Blues (2009)
In this extraordinary reconstruction of the origins of the blues, historian Marybeth Hamilton demonstrates that the story as we know it is largely a myth. Following the trail of characters like Howard Odum, who combed Mississippi's back roads with a cylinder phonograph to record vagrants, John and Alan Lomax, who prowled Southern penitentiaries and unearthed the rough, melancholy vocals of Leadbelly, and James McKune, a recluse whose record collection came to define the primal sounds of the Delta blues, Hamilton reveals this musical form to be the culmination of a longstanding white fascination with the exotic mysteries of black music. By excavating the history of the Delta blues, Hamilton reveals the extent to which American culture has been shaped by white fantasies of racial difference.
John Jeremiah Sullivan, “Unknown Bards”, Harpers (November 2008) – accessible at https://ourblues.files.wordpress.com/2012/07/unknown_bards.pdf