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The Language of the Blues by Debra DeSalvo

The blues is both an art form and a lifestyle. It’s a wondrous, fascinating, perplexing and magnificent sound, and often the music’s greatest exponents aren’t necessarily the finest technical players or singers. Journalist and musician Debra DeSalvo understands the nuts and bolts of the blues so thoroughly that she can supply the strict academic explanations and historical happenings with ease, but fortunately that’s not the main intent of this work. Instead, she takes the reader inside the blues world, examining both linguistic origins and personalities. While Dr. John’s colorful foreword outlines things in his typically outlandish and entertaining manner, DeSalvo’s work offers an alphabetized journey through 12-bar lexicon.

She uses examples from songs, candid and visually arresting photographs and excerpts from interviews to reaffirm the blues’ expressive and flamboyant qualities. From the detailed breakdown of cross-note and cross-Spanish tuning to definitions of terms both overly used (jam, mojo hand, hip, roadhouse, second line) and usually confined to academic discourse or regional usage (stavin’ chain, faro, cafe du monde), DeSalvo covers the complete blues universe with wit and style. Even those who’ve spent a lifetime with the music will find something new in The Language of the Blues.

Originally Published