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Blacks, whites and blues

Marybeth Hamilton paints a vivid portrait of the white collectors who brought blues to the masses. It's just a pity that she can't grasp what was so transcendent about Robert Johnson

By Joe Boyd   May 2007

In Search of the Blues, by Marybeth Hamilton (Jonathan Cape, £12.99)

In Search of the Blues is a wrong-headed and silly book, but nonetheless a well-researched and interesting one—for blues buffs at least. In its curious petulance, it raises interesting questions about cultural conflicts and misunderstandings between white and black, rural and urban, sophisticate and primitive, male and female.

The blues is today part of our cultural wallpaper; but it was not ever thus. A small band of obsessive white collectors—men like James McKune, Alan Lomax and Sam Charters—were the first…

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