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  Inside the Blues Tradition  
  By Jeremy Segel-Moss | reprint with permission of Playback STL

This issue was set up to bring a glimmer of light to the quiet group of musicians carrying on a slowly disappearing history. Truth is, St. Louis is known worldwide for blues, but St. Louis doesn’t know much about blues. Of course, St. Louis blues is much more than just one issue of Playback St. Louis, which is one reason for starting this column. “From the Corner” was created to provide a monthly insight into the blues community, music, history, musicians, and whatever seems relevant at the time.

For the record, St. Louis has a dedicated community of fans, a long-standing Blues Society, a fair amount of venues, a committed radio station, a successful blues festival, and a pool of musicians who can honestly be called world-class. All that said, our city’s lack of record labels, touring blues bands, or much current export leaves us to talk about (in true St. Louis fashion) our potential.

Now, I won’t claim to be a history buff, to know the blues the way people like Leroy Pierson and Ron Edwards do. I don’t claim to have lived the blues the way the real bluesmen, like Henry Townsend, have lived it. I don’t have the age and experience to give a whole lot of advice or have an overwhelming amount of musical taste. But it’s amazing what you can learn standing on the corner.

On the corner, you can hear blues spill out onto the most unsuspecting streets, their stories following closely behind. See, being overlooked is not necessarily a bad thing. It has its advantages. On any given night, you can see, for a measly five or ten bucks, the founders of blues and R&B. You can talk to them, buy their CDs from the stage, and (for those musicians in the audience) if you’re really nice, they’ll show you a few licks.

I’ve met a mish-mosh of musicians of all ages, genders, and colors playing their own variation of the blues…and it is truthfully astounding. Music that is rumored to be breathing its last few breaths is really just around the corner.

So, introduction’s over…on to business. For a good shot of blues Labor Day weekend, go down to the Big Muddy Blues Festival on Laclede’s Landing! This year’s lineup is especially tasty. National legends like Hubert Sumlin, Bobby Bland, Robert Jr. Lockwood, and Carey Bell rubbin’ elbows with local legends like Oliver Sain, Bennie Smith, Johnnie Johnson, Arthur Williams, Boo Boo Davis, Silvercloud, even Henry Townsend. Plus, monsters like Keith Doder, the Ground Floor Band (featuring Charles Hunt), Tom Hall, The Fab Foehners, Pennsylvania Slim, Big George & the House Rockers, Renee Smith & Soul Blue, Rich McDonough…the list goes on and on. You can find out all the details at www.bigmuddyblues.com, but you don’t need details: just show up and be blown away! And it’s freakin’ free!

Once again, welcome to the corner, and remember: support local music with every ounce of energy you have.

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