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Country Blues: Artists And Characteristics

Whether you’re in a bar, at a campsite, or by the beach, chances are if there is an acoustic guitar nearby, a bit of country blues is going to get strummed into the atmosphere.

Country blues is a genre of blues music that developed in rural areas of the southern United States and accompanied many poor African-Americans who were forced to work on plantations during Reconstruction after the Civil War.

Blues Country

What Is Country Blues Music?

  • Country blues music is a type of American roots music that originated in the rural southern United States;
  • It is a sub-genre of traditional blues and incorporates elements from folk, country, and popular styles;
  • Country blues artists began recording songs by 1920 and continued to do so until about 1950;
  • The genre was closely associated with the Mississippi Delta region through most of its history, but spread throughout the South during the Great Migration;
  • Country blues evolved out of earlier African American genres such as field hollers, work songs, shouts, and chants with some influence from European styles such as balladry.

History of Country Blues

Country blues music developed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It originated in the rural southern states of the U.S. and was created by African-American musicians who were influenced by traditional African music.

Country blues is distinct from other forms of blues because it features a distinct guitar and vocal style, as well as more complex song structures than its predecessors, Delta Blues and jug band music.

The genre also tends to feature more improvisation than other genres of country music, but less so than jam bands such as the Grateful Dead or Phish.

Blues Country music

Characteristics of Country Blues Music

The characteristics of country blues music include:

  • The melody and rhythm are often simple, repetitive, and cyclical;
  • The instrumentation is limited to a few instruments, such as guitar, harmonica, or washboard;
  • The vocal style ranges from singing to speaking, with an intense emotional quality that is often dramatic and expressive. Vocals are usually accompanied by acoustic guitar or piano, but no drums or electric instruments are used;
  • Lyrics focus on the singer’s personal experiences of life in the South at this time – especially poverty, racism, and oppression – as well as love for family members who have been separated for various reasons (e.g., migration northward).

Lyrics and Themes

The lyrics of country blues are typically very individual and personal, relating to the artist’s own life, or sometimes just purely fictional. Themes include oppression, poverty, lost love, and death, as well as affection for the natural world and its creatures.

Unlike other styles of blues, which tend to focus on themes of anger or violence, country blues tends towards melancholy; it is more about sorrow than aggression.

Performing Styles

  • Artists perform solo, or with a small ensemble;
  • They use a wide variety of instruments, like the guitar and harmonica;
  • Performers often use their hands and feet to create rhythmic percussion sounds.

Blues Country genre

The Artists of Country Blues

Charley Patton, Robert Johnson, Blind Lemon Jefferson, and Son House are among the most well-known artists of country blues music. While they were all born in Mississippi or Alabama, they were not part of the same scene. They each had their own distinct sound and style that helped define the genre as we know it today.

The musical influences of these iconic musicians varied greatly from one another. For example, Charley Patton was heavily influenced by African folk songs, whereas Blind Lemon Jefferson incorporated Christian hymns into his music, which could be heard in songs like “I Got Mine” (a cover of a gospel song originally made famous by Mahalia Jackson).

The musical instruments used by these artists also differed slightly depending on where they came from.

For example, Charley Patton played the guitar while Robert Johnson used a resonator guitar that allowed him to play slide guitar more easily because he didn’t have to fret individual notes with his fingers while playing chords as well as single notes simultaneously with both hands.

Conclusion

Classic country blues songs, such as “Pistol Poppin’ Papa” or “I Be’s Troubled”, are among the most individualistic, unique, and unconventional music ever recorded, with only a few performers making it during the period.

Most of those who have been have not achieved the level of success that Delta Blues has. This makes these songs and artists even more fascinating to the seasoned music fan.

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