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Customer Review

8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars No One Said It Was Going To Be Easy . . ., 7 Feb. 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: I'd Rather be the Devil: Skip James and the Blues (Paperback)
What we have here:1) The lengthy and always compelling transcribed oral-autobiography of Skip James, a brilliant, idiosyncratic (and none too nice) blues musician from Bentonia, Mississippi whose greatest work was done in the 20's and 30's. A cynical fascinating tale of violence and feigned redemption, petty compromise and amoral cultural brilliance in the Jim Crow South. 2) A tour-de-force critique of the early 60's Folk Scene and the misguided, patronizing white college students who "rediscovered" blues musicians like Son House, Mississippi Fred McDowell and Skip James. Told by a man (Stephen Calt) who, to his lingering shame and horror, played more than a bit part. A scathing dark comedy about race, art, America and ostensibly good intentions, which Tom Wolfe would've given a kidney to have penned.3) Pages upon pages of detailed technical musical analysis that, alas, is all too often prejudiced by the ambivalence and still festering rage of Calt. 4) A minor yet compelling intellectual memoir in which -- twenty-five years after James' death -- Calt tries and fails miserably to reconcile all of the above.The end result is a deeply flawed, mashed together work of incendiary history, cruel insight and all manner of self-delusion. A messy harrowing work of great worth and constant interest.
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