So I’ve got this love-hate relationship with the blues, as a genre. Really I think that it’s a simple matter of having been bludgeoned with it so heavily, for so many years, that it just invokes the overkill reaction automatically. In the public eye, at least, the amount of attention paid to blues and blues-derived rock can get pretty absurd. In my lifetime, nothing else has been pushed in my face anywhere nearly as much. Just consider, as but one example, all the different “Top [N] Guitarists Of All Time” articles you’ve seen in the big music rags over the years. Isn’t it absolutely astonishing how many of them turn out to be blues-rock players from acts wildly popular with American audiences? Gosh, whatever should I infer from this?
And yet fresh music still happens within every genre, and I am still sometimes reminded of how powerful blues can be. As one recent example, via the unlikely vehicle of commentator William Norman Grigg’s repeated insistence within Facebook posts, I first became aware of Derek Trucks’ truly unique and quite stunning guitar voice. Wow! Another example, via Pandora online radio and the…interesting adventures of navigating their classification taxonomy, was when I came to be aware of the not-exactly-recent John Fahey, who either wasn’t or most certainly was “blues”, depending on who you ask, and there is a whole genre’s worth of authentic music there as well!
And then there’s the ongoing enigma of Mark Knopfler, who seems to be able both to move across genres, while retaining something that is always identifiably him. I appreciate that in an artist, and over time, Knopfler has delivered pretty reliably. Reliably enough, in fact, that I chose to chase a somewhat arbitrary link to him playing “Song For Sonny Liston”…and now I can’t get it out of my head.
To be sure, there’s nothing extraordinary about the tune, except just maybe the totality of it. Simple music, beautifully played, in support of a deeply non-trivial lyric observation of the enigmatic and tragic life of a somewhat unusual subject.
Curiously, I had been thinking about Liston somewhat recently anyway, after the death of Muhammad Ali; perhaps there is a little of that fascination at work as well. Or maybe it’s just all of the implications in all of the unusual things that happened during an unusual man’s unusual life.
Whatever it is, it’s strangely compelling, and worth bookmarking here.