Alan Lomax is the son of folklorist John A. Lomax, who—along with his son—recorded and brought to national attention such distinguished African American musicians as Leadbelly during the 1930’s. Through the efforts of John and Alan Lomax, the Archive of American Folk Song at the Library of Congress was created. Alan Lomax has followed in his father’s footsteps, passionately capturing what life was like for African Americans in the Mississippi Delta region. In THE LAND WHERE THE BLUES BEGAN, Lomax recounts his travels into the region. What sets this particular volume apart from many other historical accounts is Lomax’s strong desire to let African Americans themselves speak in their own unique way. One of the most profound ways in which they voiced their sentiments was through blues music. The everyday hardships and pervasive racism of the region molded African Americans in such a way that blues became a natural expression of how they viewed life.
As a white man from the North, Lomax was deeply shocked by what he found in the Mississippi Delta. His account makes note of the torment he felt at the conditions in which he found African Americans living. Lomax visited churches, work camps, prisons, and run-down neighborhoods, and at each stop the people are allowed to recount for themselves what they had experienced and what was important to them. Along with his encounters with the average African American citizen, Lomax also took the time to search out legendary blues musicians, including Muddy Waters, Big Bill Broonzy, Blind Sid Hemphill, Memphis Slim, and many others. THE LAND WHERE THE BLUES BEGAN is an invaluable chronicle, enhanced by Lomax’s inclusion of reprinted song lyrics, a short bibliography, photographs, a short discography, a short filmography, and a detailed index. Alan Lomax has crafted a daring and insightful book that should become essential reading for anyone at all curious of where the blues originated.