At the Altar of the Blues

One thing that I’ve really learned in my time in southeast Michigan is an increased appreciation for the blues.

You have blues played on the radio and blues festivals in the Bay Area, to be sure, although for historical reasons I don’t understand, the Bay Area, as anyone who listens to KFOG (the only radio station with any decent reception that regularly plays anything remotely resembling blues) knows, tends to idolize white artists like Stevie Ray Vaughan, Bonnie Raitt, and Susan Tedeschi and to either undervalue or ignore black blues artists (unless it’s BB King doing a duet with U2 on “When Love Comes to Town”). I mean no disrespect, because those artists have done a lot to help keep blues alive. But would it hurt KFOG to play more Leadbelly and Son House and Luther Allison?

Last year when Joss Stone’s album hit the racks the radio stations in Michigan played it to death for a while, but it was clearly the flavor of the month, because you don’t much hear her pathetic attempts at testifying anymore (though, unfortunately, she has another CD coming out next month).

Blues is not a religion in California (which is much more the land of the Beach Boys, Jefferson Airplane, Black Flag, and Dr. Dre). It is here. And if you’ve heard Otis Rush singing “Checking on My Baby,” which I did for the first time today, you would have to be made of stone not to understand why.