2000 Mel Bay Publications, 2 CDs, 232 pages
Intermediate to Advanced
This comprehensive book/CD set presents some of today's finest guitarists; some who are also widely recognized as blues guitarists (See the tune list My main issue with this book is the subtitle; "Featuring solos by the world's finest blues guitarists". Quite a statement don't you think? The problem I have isn't with who is included in the book, but about who is not. You will not find for example Kelly Joe Phelps, Mike Dowling, Pat Donohue, Woody Mann, Bob Brozman, or Roy Bookbinder, or John Jackson, or Paul Geremia, etc, etc. I could go on but you get the point. Sorry, but many of today's finest blues guitarists simply aren't included. In fact a full 40% of the tunes on the CD were recorded on nylon string guitars...maybe it's just me, but playing the blues on a nylon string guitar pretty much says blues guitar isn't their claim to fame. Mel Bay simply overstated things in subtitling this book to keep it consistent with the others in the series.
So let's talk about what is so good about this book...clearly the music itself. Even if many of these guitarists aren't recognized as "blues" guitarists per se, they have all contributed some outstanding tunes that are both fun to listen to and challenging to learn. Muriel Anderson's "Blues for Macedonia" for example has a very unique sound with it's use of 7/8 time. Some that really caught my ear were tunes by Fred Sokolow, Dale Miller, Paul Rishell, Vincent Sadovsky, John Zaradin, and Martin Simpson. There are also some wonderful Jazz blues and Country blues pieces as well; although you'll also find a tune or two where the only thing close to 'the blues' is the title...and maybe that they were written in a minor key (you'll know them when you hear them...they stand out like an honest politician in Congress).
Standard notation and tablature are offered for most of the pieces; but there are a few oddball standard notation only 'piano scores' (ironically these are also the only 'songs' in the book with lyrics....and they're not on the CD either). Also, like the 2000 Fingerpicking book, there is no consistency in the notation, fonts, TAB sizes, or TAB styles. Every piece looks different from the others; including some written out by hand and photocopied (but all are easily readable).
Here are some of the gory statistics: 53 tunes (48 on the CDs) and 43 artists. Out of the 48 tunes on the CD, 40% are played on Nylon string guitars, 31% on Steel/Resonators (2 on 12 string), and 30% on electric guitars. Included with each tune is an artist bio along with a photo.
Although I do have a few problems with this book, I must say I really like it and recommend it. The reason is simply that I like all the music it contains and really enjoy listening to the CDs. There are at least a half-dozen tunes in this book I plan to take the time to learn and fully expect you'd find similar value in it yourself. reveiw by Paul Kucharski