Delta Blues: The Life and Times of the Mississippi Masters Who Revolutionized American Music, by Ted Gioia. (W. W. Norton, October 20, 2008)

A comprehensive new history of the Delta blues by noted jazz author Ted Gioia, which journeys from Mississippi to Chicago while tracing the careers of many famous blues recording artists, including Charley Patton, Son House, Robert Johnson, John Lee Hooker, Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters and B.B. King. This book will make a fine addition to any blues collection, and is recommended for public as well as academic libraries.

Blues Empress in Black Chattanooga: Bessie Smith and the Emerging Urban South, by Michelle R. Scott. (University of Illinois Press, August 2008).

The latest biography of Bessie Smith (1892-1937), the famous blues singer and entertainer who was originally known as the “queen of the blues” and gradually worked her way up to “empress.”  While this might not be the definitive biography (there are several others in print, most notably Chris Albertson’s Bessie),  it does include interesting discussions of the black entertainment industry, as well as the African American community within Chattanooga.

Swing Along: The Musical Life of Will Marion Cook, by Marva Carter. (Oxford University Press, September 2008)

Will Marion Cook was one of the most important African American composers in the early 20th century, and a comprehensive biography is long overdue. Carter draws upon  Cook’s unfinished autobiography as well as his wife Abbie’s memoir, and includes analyses of his most important works, including the musicals In Dahomey and Swing Along.  This is a must read for anyone interested in Black music and musical theater between 1890-1920.

Icons of R&B and Soul: An Encyclopedia of the Artists who Revolutionized Rhythm, by Bob Gulla (Greenwood Press, 2008).

A wonderful two volume survey of artists including Ray Charles, Little Richard, Fats Domino, Ruth Brown, Sam Cooke, Etta James, James Brown, Aretha Franklin, The Supremes, Temptations, Berry Gordy, Stevie Wonder, Otis Redding, Ike & Tina Turner, Curtis Mayfield, Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson, and Prince. Intended for public and school libraries, the volumes include selective bibliographies and discographies, as well as a multitude of side bars addressing everything from social issues to record labels, timelines, and chart topping hits.

The Funk Era and Beyond: New Perspectives on Black Popular Culture, by Tony Bolden. (Palgrave MacMillan, August, 2008)

In the words of our Director, Dr. Portia Maultsby, “This engaging book takes the reader on a journey across the multi-layered and multidisciplinary terrain of funk. This series of essays on music and the visual and literary arts reveal how ‘da funk’ represents innovation and aesthetic principles rooted in the Black vernacular, which defines the uniqueness of Black creativity. The Funk Era and Beyond is a must-read to understand funk as a philosophy, an attitude, a way of life, and more broadly, a cultural phenomena.”

A Power Stronger Than Itself: The AAMC and Experimental Music, by George E. Lewis. (University Of Chicago Press, May 2008).

This nearly 700 page tome documents the history of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians and the avant-garde jazz scene in Chicago. A major contribution to jazz research, the book is scholarly yet highly readable and entertaining. The author also does a more than admirable job of entertwining the music scene with the racial and cultural aspects of the Chicago landscape.