Mississippi Books and Writers
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By Adam Gussow
University of Tennessee Press (Hardcover, $30.00, ISBN: 1572335696)
Publication date: June 2007
Description from the publisher:
Journeymans Road offers a bold new vision of where the blues have been in the course of the twentieth century and what they have become at the dawn of the new millennium: a world music rippling with postmodern contradictions. Author Adam Gussow brings a unique perspective to this exploration. Not just an award-winning scholar and memoirist, he is an accomplished blues harmonica player, a Handy award nominee and veteran of the international club and festival circuit. With this unusual depth of experience, Gussow skillfully places blues literature in dialogue with the music that provokes it, vibrantly articulating a vital American tradition.
Journeymans Road tells unfamiliar stories about a popular American art form, takes contrarian positions, explodes familiar mythologies, and frames the contemporary blues scene in bold, new ways. Taking its title from Gussows self-described status as a “journeyman”—a musician who has completed his apprenticeship and is well on his way to becoming a master—this new book brings together articles that Gussow wrote for publications such as Blues Access and Harpers, as well as critical scholarly essays, including the first comprehensive examination of William Faulkners relationship with the blues.
At the heart of Gussows story is his own unlikely yet remarkable streetside partnership with Harlem bluesman Sterling “Mr. Satan” Magee, a musical collaboration marked not just by a series of polarities—black and white, Mississippi and Princeton, hard-won mastery and youthful apprenticeship—but by creative energies that pushed beyond apparent differences to forge new dialogues and new sounds.
Undercutting familiar myths about the down-home sources of blues authenticity, Gussow celebrates New Yorks mongrel blues scene: the artists, the jam sessions, the venues, the street performers, and the eccentrics. At once elegiac and forward-looking, Journeymans Road offers a collective portrait of the New York subculture struggling with the legacy of 9/11 and healing itself with the blues.
Filled with photographs and complete with a comprehensive bibliography, Journeymans Road is an expedition through the evolution and culture of the blues, a trip filled with the genres characteristic collisions and contradictions, paradoxes and multiplicities, innovative calls and often unexpected responses.
Adam Gussow is the rare academic who has lived the life of a bluesman. An accomplished harmonica player, recording artist, and journalist, he is assistant professor of English and southern studies at the University of Mississippi. He is the author of Seems Like Murder Here: Southern Violence and the Blues Tradition and Mister Satans Apprentice: A Blues Memoir.
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