As with Crumb’s book, the artists that Stout chose to delineate reflect his personal tastes, but Stout’s view of the blues is much more inclusive and more reflective of its wide and varied history from the 1920s through the 1960s. Stout recognizes that blues was seen more as a style than a distinct genre until white fans discovered the music and tried to set it apart from the mainstream of both rhythm & blues and rock ’n’ roll. This means that he casts a much wider net than the country blues troubadours of the Depression and their electrified Chicago Blues inheritors that many hardcore blues fans often obsess over at the expense of other important artists. He includes many early blues queens like Bessie Smith and Victoria Spivey, jazz chanteuses like Billie Holiday and Helen Humes, jump blues shouters like Louis Jordan, Roy Brown and Wynonie Harris, rock ’n’ roll pioneers like Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley and Johnny Otis, and even oddball and hard-to-pigeonhole figures like Frankie “Half Pint” Jaxon.
Also included in the book is a 14-track CD that wisely avoids the more common songs by well-known artists, instead shining a spotlight on obscure gems. For any longtime fan of the blues, or the greenest blues neophyte, Stout’s beautiful love letter to a great American musical style is a must-have.