New STUDY THE SOUTH Essay by Dr. Adam Gussow – “Blues Expressiveness and the Blues Ethos”

The blues—as a palette of intense, often contradictory feelings; a range of social conditions heavily inflected by blackness and southernness; an expressive form encompassing literature as well as music; and a philosophical orientation towards experience—are a more complex cultural phenomenon than some realize. This essay unpacks the latter two concepts: blues expressiveness and the blues ethos. Blues expressiveness is constituted by a range of cultural practices, including the AAB stanza, call and response procedure, vocalizations, blues-idiomatic language, and signifying. The blues ethos, too, offers multiple strategies for surviving bad times by refusing to reify the down-ness of the present moment as an inescapable condition, sometimes with the help of harsh, redemptive laughter. In this essay, Adam Gussow draws on a range of lyric, literary, and folkloristic commentary by Langston Hughes, Cornell West, Bessie Smith, Howard Odum, Kalamu ya Salaam, W. C. Handy, Angela Y. Davis, Lonnie Johnson, and many others. The essay also takes an autobiographical turn as Gussow mines his own bandstand and classroom experience with Mississippi-born blues performers Sterling “Mr. Satan” Magee and Bill “Howl-N-Madd” Perry to illustrate the blues ethos in action.

Call for Proposals for 2018 Southern Music Symposium

SOUTHERN MUSIC SYMPOSIUM · FEBRUARY 26 CALL FOR PROPOSALS FOR UM STUDENTS We invite University of Mississippi students to submit papers or completed documentary work for public presentation and discussion at the February 26 Symposium.  Subjects can concern how southern music has shaped or related to place, race, gender, class, locality, environment, globalization, consumerism, and/or politics.… Read More >

New MISSISSIPPI STORY: Race, Place, and the Blues in Clarksdale

New on Mississippi Stories, a lecture by Assistant Professor of Sociology and Southern Studies Dr. Brian Foster: “‘That’s for the White Folks’: Race, Culture, and (Un)Making Place in the Rural South.” Dr. Foster presented the lecture, based on his ethnographic work in rural Mississippi, on October 25, 2017 as part of the Center’s Brown Bag Lecture Series.

Check out the June/July 2017 LIVING BLUES

Living Blues #249 (June/July 2017) is a special issue devoted to the blues of Yazoo County, Mississippi. We explore the history of the county, the music and the musicians who made it. We then turn our spotlight on the current scene and the man who has committed his life to keeping it alive.

Watch SHAKE ‘EM ON DOWN on PBS

You can now watch the SouthDocs film Shake ‘Em on Down by Joe York and Scott Barretta online through the Reel South initiative. Reel South is the result of a partnership between UNC-TV and SCETV and the Southern Documentary Fund, and highlights the documentaries from around the region, making them available through public broadcasting stations.

SHAKE ‘EM ON DOWN Part of Southern Circuit Film Tour

Shake ‘Em on Down: The Blues According to Fred McDowell, a SouthDocs film by Joe York and Scott Barretta, was selected to be part of the South Arts Southern Circuit, which screens films across the region. The circuit just kicked off, and Joe will be attending many of the screenings.

October/November Issue of LIVING BLUES Out Now

The October/November 2016 issue of Living Blues features the griot of the blues Taj Mahal on the cover. At age 74 Taj Mahal is one of the biggest stars in the blues today. His musical and cultural knowledge is vast and his desire to share this lifetime of knowledge is his enduring legacy.

August/September LIVING BLUES Available Now!

The August/September #244 issue of Living Blues shines a spotlight on the state of the blues in Jackson, Mississippi. Supported by a generous grant from the Jackson Convention and Visitors Bureau, this special edition of LB documents an under-the-radar, yet thriving local scene—one whose influential roots run deep.