The Land Where the Blues Began

Winner of a 1993 National Book Critics Circle award, a rollicking memoir of the legendary folklorist’s journey into blues country

A self-described “song-hunter,” the folklorist Alan Lomax traveled the Mississippi Delta in the 1930s and ’40s, armed with primitive recording equipment and a keen love of the Delta’s music heritage. Crisscrossing the towns and hamlets where the blues began, Lomax gave voice to such greats as Leadbelly, Fred MacDowell, Muddy Waters, and many others, all of whom made their debut recordings with him.

The Land Where the Blues Began is Lomax’s “stingingly well-written cornbread-and-moonshine odyssey” (Kirkus Reviews) through America’s musical heartland. Through candid conversations with bluesmen and vivid, firsthand accounts of the landscape where their music was born, Lomax’s “discerning reconstructions . . . give life to a domain most of us can never know . . . one that summons us with an oddly familiar sensation of reverence and dread” (The New York Times Book Review). The Land Where the Blues Began captures the irrepressible energy of soul of people who changed American musical history.

Praise

“Without Lomax it’s possible that there would have been no blues explosion, no R&B movement, no Beatles and no Stones and no Velvet Underground.”
—Brian Eno
“If not for Lomax, few people would have heard ‘Tom Dooley’ or ‘Goodnight Irene’ and Bob Zimmerman might be singing ‘Feelings’ at Holiday Inns around Hibbing, Minnesota.”
Newsweek
“No one has come close to Alan Lomax in illuminating the intersecting musical roots of an extraordinary range of cultures, including our own.”
—Nat Hentoff