Texas Blues: The Rise of a Contemporary Sound

First the bad news: Alan Govenar ’s Texas Blues: The Rise of a Contemporary Sound is maddening, a six-hundred-page patchwork of illustrations, interviews, and essays adapted and expanded from his previous works. Sometimes organized by place (East Texas, Austin) and sometimes by theme (zydeco, the saxophone), it affords such key artists as T-Bone Walker and Big Mama Thornton a scant two or three pages each. Nevertheless, Texas Blues succeeds by how it captures the voices of workaday singers and players for whom the blues is a way of life, with unvarnished stories from people like “Whistling” Alex Moore, who learned to play by sneaking practice time on pianos in houses where he delivered groceries, and Ray Sharpe, whose stuttering R&B chestnut “Linda Lu” has taken him around the world. Texas Blues is glossy but not slick—and it is plenty real. Texas A&M University Press, $40

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