American blues by Evan Guilford-Blake, book review by Marc Louis-Boyard for Slow Culture

Evan Guilford-Blake, American Blues – BOOK REVIEW #12

In 2016, Holland House Books released Evan Guilford-Blake’s American Blues. Four years have passed since, but once we got invited to dive into it, the notion of time definitely disappeared.

Time definitely flew by once we started reading the five stories forming the book. Seduced by the narrative and the author’s active curiosity, we’re delighted to share with you some of our thoughts today.

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Evan Guilford-Blake, American Blues (Holland House Books): our review.

Blues-infused, but not cliché

Blues and jazz are often defined as the oldest form of contemporary music, and the book underlines this fact by setting the five stories in different decades, including very different characters, demographically and psychologically speaking.

The title might be a bit misleading at first, but rest assured: American Blues has much more to offer than a pseudo-comprehensive carnival of references. We dreaded this to happen, and Evan Guilford-Blake proved to be tactful, adopting a less-is-more approach.

Of course, jazz standards are evoked, and the occasional jazz enthusiast will smile at the mention of titles like Greensleeves. Forget about the sunglassed and whyskied clichés, subtlety is key here and the taste is genuine. The educated jazzhead will also smile at the lexical field giving direct and discreet references to the jazz world.

The rain pounded down the window. Outside, a honk sounded and faded away. On the radio, “In the Blue of the Evening” ended, “Juke Box Saturday Night” began.

– Excerpt from American Blues

Ebook of American Blues by Evan-Guilford Blake
How to end a great weekend, featuring American Blues and an electric guitar

Pain, explained and nuanced

Pain is omnipresent in the book, but is far from being heavy and clumsy. The narrator describes in great detail the action without depressing the reader: the line is often fine, but what’s to be felt is definitely more positively moving than emotionally draining.

This emotional distance is reinforced by the fact that pain is mainly suggested, and not blandly delivered. The reader is set as close to the action as it gets, but still there’s place for microsignals to be discovered and enjoyed. The supporting characters are made essential for that matter thanks to the depth of their personality and the hidden importance of their actions.

She wraps her arms around his neck, pulls him to her and kisses him. He returns it carefully. Truth is, her pressin’ on him so hard hurts.

– Excerpt from American Blues

All about music, all about us

As aforementioned, music is at the core of the book, but is not embarrassingly omnipresent. That being said, the five stories of American Blues emphasizes with great importance the essential virtue(s) of music through the course of one’s life.

May it be a trigger, a source of comfort, a source of nostalgia, a source of seduction, a source of hope, or just a daily soundtrack: music is what gives life to the bright and ordinary tragedy of being. 

He was late getting home – (…) the coon at the record store couldn’t find the damn album, took him twenty minutes of looking (…) (Tio) was steamed, but he sucked on it and slammed the door on his way out.

– Excerpt from American Blues

Evan Guilford-Blake, American Blues (Holland House Books)

Available now.

Five stories exploring the mind and soul of American Blues over the last seventy years.

  • Five powerful stories with music integral to each
  • Classic American tropes and imagery renewed
Portrait of Evan Guilford-Blake
Courtesy of Evan Guilford-Blake

About Evan Guilford-Blake

Evan Guilford-Blake has written some 40 produced plays for adults and young audiences, which have been produced in the U.S., Canada, England, Israel, and Australia. He has won 42 playwriting awards. Thirty of his plays have been published.

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Written by Marc Louis-Boyard for Slow Culture.

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