Wow, today’s a good day, even though I had a bit of a rough start. I noticed that one of my favorite blues CDs, “T-Bone Walker: Talkin’ Guitar” broke and I was obviously not happy about that. However, I just found a bunch of old music magazines which I thought I had lost a long time ago. I’m talking about a series called “The Blues Collection” which was published in the early nineties in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. I believe it was every month or so when they came out with a new issue which consisted of a magazine plus a CD (see photo). I didn’t buy all the copies but only those I was most interested in.
Alright, so let’s talk a little bit about “The Blues Collection: Elmore James”. Just like Muddy Waters, B.B. King and T-Bone Walker, Elmore James is considered as one of the leading guitarist and inventors of what critics all “modern blues”. His trademark is obviously his slide guitar sound, most recognizable in his opening lick to “Dust My Broom”. Elmore James was inspired by legends such as Robert Johnson, but he himself is regarded as a major influence to a younger generation of blues guitarists all over the world.
To understand the music of Elmore James, one has to comprehend the development of American blues music in general. For that purposes, “The Blues Collection: Elmore James” suggests the following analogy: visualize a map of the Southern States with the major railroad tracks. Each of those tracks symbolizes a particular sub-style of the blues. In the early days, these tracks were not well connected to each other. The train conductors, predominately young males, were eager to explore new territories. And as technology advanced, trains got faster and the formerly separated tracks started to connect. Some of the pioneers who rode on these trains was B.B. King, Muddy Waters and T-Bone Walker. And while Elmore James probably never reached the same level of public recognition, he too was part of the elicit group. In addition to that, he was fully aware of the legacy guitarist such as Charley Patton, Son House and Robert Johnson created; therefore, in all his endeavors he was mindful of not becoming oblivious to that fact. James took was his spiritual forefathers left him with and developed it further, simply put.
Speaking of Robert Johnson – well, his influence on Elmore James is omnipresent. And I am not necessarily referring to style and technique, but rather the general angle from which he approached the blues. He took a genre loaded with traditional elements and managed to put his own stamp on it by creating a unique and highly recognizable sound. It’s a shame that Elmore James never witnessed how his own legacy later on leveled the playing field for modern blues interpreters, some of whom became guitar legends themselves, including Keith Richards, Brian Jones, John Mayall and Eric Clapton.