Friday, January 25, 2013

The Blues (cont.)

Abner Jay with unidentified girl
12" x 16", oil on masonite, 2013
Twenty years ago I moved to the United States, the biggest lure for me were the blues. It was that music that were the origins of all the music I was interested in as a teenager. I played guitar in a rock band. I was 16 and Eric Clapton was my hero, but I wasn’t all that good. Coming in contact with the blues songs that were the blueprint for much of the music I admired, rendered my belief in rock music as the meaning of life...futile. That, together with the realization that the music I was involved in was so commercial, and the realization that I was better with a pencil than with a guitar pick, made me quit the band. I didn’t lose faith in music altogether, but the balloon wasn’t made out of lead after all. For a while after that the only music I was interested in was the authentic Mississippi folk blues. But I could never be a true blues musician, I could only be a listener, a fan.

But I didn't really expect to encounter the blues in the US when I came. I figure I'd come across a mere vestige of something that happened in history. I was surprised to learn that there are still pockets of isolated areas in the south where the tradition lives on (although these are disappearing too.) Abner Jay, who died in 1993, was one those few musicians who played the blues from a local tradition that hadn't changed. He was from Southern Georgia, a stone throw away from the location of the annual Florida Folk Festival in White Springs, and just a few hours up the street from where I'm at. The above painting is modeled after a photograph of Jay (the unidentified girl is possibly Jay's daughter Brandie) taken at that festival which I am plan on attending this year. Both Abner Jay and the girl are seen singing and playing bones. Jay's recordings have been reissued by the Mississippi label, and the song in the Top 100 is My Middle Name is the Blues from a record called Last Ole Minstrel Man.

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