This comprehensive two-volume set brings together all aspects of the blues from performers and musical styles to record labels and cultural issues, including regional evolution and history. Organized in an accessible A-to-Z format, the Encyclopedia of the Blues is an essential reference resource for information on this unique American music genre.
For a full list of entries, contributors, and more, visit the Encyclopediaof the Blues website.
This encyclopedia is devoted to covering the blues as a musical form while also exploring its historical and cultural foundations. The 2,100 entries, written by 140 scholars and musicians, are arranged alphabetically and range in length from brief definitions (a couple of sentences) to long, analytical articles (5,000 words). Access is aided by both an alphabetical and a thematic list of entries as well as a comprehensive subject, people, and song-title index. There is also some cross-referencing between related entries. Although the text is occasionally supplemented with black-and-white photographs, the aesthetic appeal would have been greater with more pictures, particularly given the large number of biographical entries.
The majority of entries are indeed biographical, covering performers, historians, songwriters, and label owners. Coverage is also heavily weighted toward record labels ( Irma, Matchbox). Other, less-represented areas of coverage include musical styles, forms, techniques, and instruments ( Field hollers, Funk, Scales); specific regions ( Africa, Chicago); the historiography of the blues ( Libraries, Periodicals); cultural aspects of the blues ( Racial issues and the blues, Women and the blues); business aspects ( Chitlin Circuit, Marketing); and individual songs (“ Mustang Sally, ” “ Stormy Monday“). Each entry ends with a bibliography of further reading, and each biographical entry also has a discography. In the case of major musicians, a list of selected recordings and reissues is also included. References rely heavily on a short list of “frequently cited sources” that wisely includes the All Music Guide to the Blues (Backbeat, 2003) and Robert Santelli’s The Big Book of Blues: A Biographical Encyclopedia (Penguin, 1993).
‘An impressive list of contributors … Besides being rich with biographical entries, this Encyclopedia also includes entries for important record labels, instruments, styles, geographic regions, aspects of the business, and additional topics that have been lacking in other encyclopedic efforts … This is a valuable addition to the reference shelf of blues literature … Highly recommended.’ – Choice
‘This two-volume A-to-Z set effectively categorizes the history of the blues. A great benefit is that the book features blues artists from all time periods, and the number of obscure blues artists listed in remarkable. Essential for any library collecting the history of the blues.’ — Library Journal
‘In this two-volume Encyclopedia, Komara provides about 2100 entries, both brief and extensive, on the blues, its history, culture, roots, contemporary styles, artists, historians, songwriters, record labels, forms, characteristics, instruments, songs, regions, historiography, music business, and related forms. Discographies and bibliographiesfor each entry are included, as well as a thematic list of entries and an index in each volume.’ —Reference & Research Book News
“A great deal of useful material is enclosed within the two sets of covers. It spreads a broader and deeper net than the late Sheldon Harris’s Blues Who’s Who (1979), going beyond individual musicians, and it includes broader headings such as regions/states; musical styles and techniques; instruments; points of cultural interest; historiography; record labels; related art forms; specific ‘major’ songs. These longer entries are quite good, well-researched and well-written, worth knowing about and using.” —Peter B. Lowry, Western Folklore, volume 68, nos. 2-3 (2009)