Is there any genre of music more associated with despair, heartache and racial tensions than 20th century blues? The British blues boom of the ‘60s may have emphasised the drama and the bombast of the music’s original form, but much of the context was stripped away in favour of sexual drama. Blues music has that ethereal, haunting quality to its foot-tapping stance. Tunes that defined an era of racial segregation remain a resonant encapsulation of those times.
It’s a joy then to find that Bill Dahl’s The Art of the Blues celebrates the visual swagger of the blues simply for the sheer joy of those visuals. Dahl’s exhaustive book, resplendent in a handsome crimson cover that’s littered with a collage of artwork from the world of blues, is a rich tapestry of how art was used to push the blues as an undisputed king of music in its 20th century heyday. A masterstroke in the book’s pacing is not only how Dahl splits the book into chapters, but how each chapter is placed.