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Asked the good lord to forgive me, how come my baby can't forgive me too? - Charley Jordan, Two Street Blues

Author Topic: McTell Book  (Read 22858 times)

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VSOP

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Re: McTell Book
« Reply #60 on: February 11, 2009, 09:30:46 PM »
140 pages into this and very, very disappointed, to the point that I probably will not be able to continue. Gray must be the most shining living stereotype of the ostentatious British "expert-on-everything" working today. His "observations" on Georgians and Georgia cultural life are utterly pretentious bullcrap, and completely irrelevant to the biography of Blind Willie McTell. And this goes on and on and on and on...he can't find French cuisine in Statesboro, so he whines like some Diva who didn't get her Dom Perignon backstage. Jesus. Did an editor even glance at this?

Does McTell ever enter the story??? I've learned more irrelevant details about his grandfather than I ever needed to know.

Offline oddenda

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Re: McTell Book
« Reply #61 on: February 12, 2009, 12:32:52 AM »
Bear with it - Sightless William eventually shows up in the saga. I enjoyed the book, myself, and found it a fascinating and gripping read. An apropos corollary, VSOP, never eat in a Chinese restaurant in Macon, GA. I know of what I write - the H&H is a MUCH safer bet, if still extant!

Peter B.

Offline dj

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Re: McTell Book
« Reply #62 on: February 12, 2009, 03:56:47 AM »
Quote
His "observations" on Georgians and Georgia cultural life are utterly pretentious bullcrap

It's always interesting to me to see familiar territory through the eyes of strangers. 

Mr Gray does spend a lot of time relating background information before McTell actually appears, but, for me at least, once I got to reading the details of McTell's life, I was glad I had the background.  And remember, even if you're an expert on Georgia's history, geography, and culture, 90% of the people who read this book are not.

As for French cuisine in Statesboro, all I can say is that i sympathize entirely with Michael Gray.  I'm at the point in my life where I get downright cranky if I can't find a good restaurant in town!  (Though my most frequent complaint anywhere in the US is that you just can't get a decent cup of tea.  :(  )

Offline Michael Kuehn

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Re: McTell Book
« Reply #63 on: February 12, 2009, 04:45:25 AM »
Yes, I totally agree with VSOP. I didn't enjoy the book at all. I read a lot, but this book just could not hold my attention. A more plodding, boring read I've yet to find.

PS If anyone wants to take this book off my hands, email me privately. I'll sell it for $25 +postage in US. I think I paid around $50 for it from Amazon UK.
« Last Edit: February 12, 2009, 05:07:25 AM by bluesmikedk »

Offline dj

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Re: McTell Book
« Reply #64 on: February 12, 2009, 05:30:12 AM »
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A more plodding, boring read I've yet to find.

That's because you've never read things like "Some Ramblings on Robert Johnson's Mind: Critical Analysis and Aesthetic Value in Delta Blues" by James Bennighof, one of the more poorly written essays in Ramblin' On My Mind: New Perspectives On The Blues.   :P

Different strokes for different folks, I guess.  I'd have to say that Hand Me My Travelin' Shoes would be on my list of the 10 best books on the blues published in the 21st century.  My description would be more "an endlessly interesting, easy read"  than "plodding and boring".

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: McTell Book
« Reply #65 on: February 12, 2009, 06:45:20 AM »
Yes, I totally agree with VSOP. I didn't enjoy the book at all. I read a lot, but this book just could not hold my attention. A more plodding, boring read I've yet to find.
"Chacun ? son go?t" as the French might say.

Offline Rivers

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Re: McTell Book
« Reply #66 on: February 12, 2009, 09:17:42 PM »
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...ostentatious British "expert-on-everything"

Hey! I resemble that remark.

I haven't read it yet, when I do, I'll get back to ya'! (as ostentatious American expert-on-sweet-f*-all, Sarah Palin, might say)  ;)
« Last Edit: February 12, 2009, 09:53:44 PM by Rivers »

Offline uncle bud

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Re: McTell Book
« Reply #67 on: February 13, 2009, 07:30:27 AM »
What's with the hate-on for the British?

Setting that aside, I'm a little surprised at the negative reactions, not because I expect everyone to enjoy this book but because the viewpoints diverge so dramatically. I have to say this is the only book about blues I have ever finished and felt like turning back to page 1 and starting over again. It is well-written, witty, provides a cultural and social history beyond the music (like dj, I was glad of all the background), is part travelogue and memoir. I never found it pretentious at all. My only criticism of the book is that it did not tackle the songs as much as it could have. Perhaps that would have made it is as dull as so many blues books out there can be, perhaps it's for another writer to deal with.

Like dj, I also lament the utter incomprehension when it comes to tea here in coffee-obsessed North American restaurants and cafes. (Not just the US, dj. It's Canada too.)

Offline dj

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Re: McTell Book
« Reply #68 on: February 13, 2009, 04:35:54 PM »
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What's with the hate-on for the British?

Since on one else has replied, I guess I'll have to.  Our main complaints against the British:
  • The men are handsome, the women are beautiful, and all the kids are, as my wife would say, cute as hops.
  • They're sophisticated, well-spoken, witty, dapper, and urbane.  And they write well.
  • The accent(s).
  • The fact that every one of them has a butler and a crew of servants gets our republican blood up. (Don't try to deny it, we've seen the TV shows!)
  • They had Monty Python years before we did.
  • Most unforgivable of all, all of them, including the queen, have a better blues library and a much more extensive blues LP/CD collection than I do.  I think I'm safe in taking Bunker Hill as representing the "average" native of the British Isles in this respect.


I'm surprised you didn't know all this, uncle bud.

(Note to the gullible:  there's just a bit of satire contained in the above.)
« Last Edit: February 13, 2009, 04:38:17 PM by dj »

Offline oddenda

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Re: McTell Book
« Reply #69 on: February 13, 2009, 10:43:53 PM »
Interesting disparities in the reactions to the bio of Visually-Challenged Mr. McTell (to be politically correct!). This book does WAY more in the way of contextualizing the individual, both in his time, and in what came before that. While some of what Mr. Gray writes comes as no surprise to "American" readers, his painting with a really broad brush is distinctive and edifying, in my opinion. Willie is there embedded in a bigger story than just "guitar-playing Black Man". I'd have liked more comment on the songs, but it wasn't that kind of book. For those who hated it, pass it on - someone else might enjoy it!

Peter B.

p.s. - Here in Australia, Pommie-bashing is the second most popular national sport. Cute.

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: McTell Book
« Reply #70 on: February 14, 2009, 02:22:39 AM »
What's with the hate-on for the British?
I reckon it's because we've never been forgiven for publishing the first English language blues magazines, Blues Unlimited (1963) and Blues World (1965) and the U.S didn't come up with one until 1970. But seriously, don't you think it speaks volumes that a Brit has to write this book because the recognised authority on this particular artist seems reluctant to do so?

Offline Prof Scratchy

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Re: McTell Book
« Reply #71 on: February 14, 2009, 02:46:09 AM »
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because the recognised authority on this particular artist seems reluctant to do so/quote]

Who's (s)he and why?

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: McTell Book
« Reply #72 on: February 14, 2009, 03:20:08 AM »
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because the recognised authority on this particular artist seems reluctant to do so
Who's (s)he and why?
David Evans. Why is the question that's probably been on the lips of most since those three issues of Blues Unlimited in 1977 astounded blues fans with his interview with Kate McTell and family. David Evans would have seemed the obvious contender for the task. I'm not knocking the Gray effort, I think it's a brilliant and absorbing read, but I wouldn't mind betting that DE has McTell data which Michael Gray would have given his right arm for.  ;)

Offline Prof Scratchy

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Re: McTell Book
« Reply #73 on: February 14, 2009, 04:03:43 AM »
Well, BH - somebody should write a book about DE, cover his BWMcT research in detail, then excise the bits about DE? Just an idea....

Offline dj

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Re: McTell Book
« Reply #74 on: February 14, 2009, 04:31:03 AM »
Evans wrote the notes to Sony's 1994 CD release of the complete recordings McTell made for Columbia/Okeh/Vocalion.  The notes are a good read, but, all-in-all, I'm glad Michael Gray wrote Hand Me Down My Travelin' Shoes and not David Evans.  A book by Evans would have been an entirely different animal, and while it might have had a few more facts about McTell and certainly would have had much more musical analysis, it wouldn't have been nearly as enjoyable to read.