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Blues-rock is a hybrid musical genre combining bluesy improvisations over the 12-bar blues and extended boogie jams with rock and roll styles. The core of the blues rock sound is created by the electric guitar, bass guitar and drum kit, with the electric guitar usually amplified through a tube guitar amplifier, giving it an overdriven character. It is a style of rock music with roots in electric blues.

Blues rock began with American and British blues musicians performing American blues songs with rock & roll elements. They typically recreated electric Chicago blues songs, such as those by Muddy Waters, Jimmy Reed, Howlin' Wolf, and Albert King, at faster tempos and with a more aggressive sound. The roots of the genre can be traced back to Chicago blues musicians such as Elmore James, Albert King and Freddie King experimenting with blues-rock fusion, including heavier guitar sounds and faster tempo, during the late 1950s to early 1960s.[3] It later emerged as a distinct movement in the mid-1960s, in England and the United States, with acts such as The Rolling Stones, Cream and Jimi Hendrix experimenting with music from earlier bluesmen like Elmore James, Robert Johnson, Howlin' Wolf and Bo Diddley.

Blues rock was the origin of the hard rock and heavy metal genres.

CharacteristicsEdit

Blues rock can be characterized by bluesy improvisation, the twelve-bar blues, extended boogie jams typically focused on the electric guitar player, and often a heavier, riff-oriented sound and feel to the songs than might be found in traditional Chicago-style blues. Blues rock bands borrowed the idea of an instrumental combo and loud amplification from electric blues[4] as well as rock & roll.[5]

Blues rock adopted various characteristics from electric blues, including its dense texture,[4] guitar techniques (such as amplification, distortion and power chords),[6] rough declamatory vocal style, heavy guitar riffs, string-bending blues-scale guitar solos, strong beat, thick riff-laden texture, and posturing performances.[7] The distinction between electric blues and blues rock is sometimes difficult and various artists have been classified in both camps.[8] However, blues rock is often played at a fast tempo, distinguishing it from the blues.[5]

InstrumentationEdit

The core blues rock sound is created by the electric guitar, bass guitar and drum kit. Often bands also included a harmonica, usually called "a harp." This was adapted from the basic blues band instrumentation of a prominent lead guitar, second chord instrument, bass and drums.[4]

HistoryEdit

Rock and blues have historically always been closely linked. In the 1950s, electric blues bands laid the foundations for various characteristics of blues rock, including its dense texture, basic blues band instrumentation,[4] rough declamatory vocal style, heavy guitar riffs, string-bending blues-scale guitar solos, strong beat, thick riff-laden texture, and posturing performances.[7] Driving rhythms and electric guitar techniques such as amplification, distortion and power chords were used by 1950s electric blues guitarists, including Memphis bluesmen such as Joe Hill Louis, Willie Johnson, and particularly Pat Hare,[6][9] who captured a "grittier, nastier, more ferocious electric guitar sound" on records such as James Cotton's "Cotton Crop Blues" (1954).[6]

The Chicago blues musicians Elmore James, Albert King and Freddie King were early pioneers of blues rock music.[10] Elmore James used electric guitar techniques such as distortion, power chords and slides to create an "explosive sound" that was "screaming with sustained tones" and was distorted and densely textured,[11] developing blues rock by "energizing primal riffs with a raw, driving intensity."[12] Freddie King created hybrid blues rock music in the early 1960s, predating by about five years the British artists who were influenced by his work, such as Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page and Peter Green.[13]

Blues rock eventually arose as a distinctly recognizable genre during the mid-to-late 1960s. Blues rock was initially not named as such, or widely recognized as a distinct movement within rock, until the advent of such British bands as Free, Savoy Brown and the earliest incarnations of Fleetwood Mac. The musicians in those bands had honed their skills in a handful of British blues bands, primarily those of John Mayall and Alexis Korner.[14]

Despite black American roots, the genre eventually came to be dominated by white European musicians. One music critic called it a "genre of rhythm'n'blues played by white European musicians." UK Bands such as The Who, Led Zeppelin, The Animals, Cream and The Rolling Stones experimented with music from the older American bluesmen like Howlin' Wolf, Robert Johnson, Jimmy Reed and Muddy Waters.[5] While the early blues-rock bands "attempted to play long, involved improvisations which were commonplace on jazz records",[5] by the 1970s, blues rock got heavier and more riff-based.[5] By the "early '70s, the lines between blues-rock and hard rock were barely visible",[5] as bands began recording rock-style albums. In the 1980s and 1990s, blues-rock bands returned to their bluesy roots, and some of these bands, such as the "Fabulous Thunderbirds and Stevie Ray Vaughan flirted with rock stardom."[5]

ReferencesEdit

  1. Weinstein, Deena. Heavy Metal: The Music and its Culture. DaCapo, 2000. ISBN 0-306-80970-2, pg. 14.
  2. Christe, Ian. Sound of the Beast. Allison & Busby, 1. ISBN 0-7490-8351-4. 
  3. Dicaire, David (1999). Blues Singers: Elmore James entry. McFarland. Retrieved on 2013-06-02. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 Michael Campbell & James Brody, Rock and Roll: An Introduction, pages 80-81
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 5.5 5.6 "Blues-rock," Allmusic.com (Accessed September 29 2006), <http://allmusic.com/cg/amg.dll?p=amg&sql=77:50>
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 Robert Palmer, "Church of the Sonic Guitar", pp. 13-38 in Anthony DeCurtis, Present Tense, Duke University Press, 1992, pp. 24-27. ISBN 0-8223-1265-4.
  7. 7.0 7.1 Michael Campbell & James Brody (2007), Rock and Roll: An Introduction, page 201
  8. V. Bogdanov, C. Woodstra, S. T. Erlewine, eds, All Music Guide to the Blues: The Definitive Guide to the Blues (Backbeat, 3rd edn., 2003), pp. 700-2.
  9. Miller, Jim (1980). The Rolling Stone illustrated history of rock & roll. New York: Rolling Stone. ISBN 0394513223. Retrieved on 5 July 2012. “Black country bluesmen made raw, heavily amplified boogie records of their own, especially in Memphis, where guitarists like Joe Hill Louis, Willie Johnson (with the early Howlin' Wolf band) and Pat Hare (with Little Junior Parker) played driving rhythms and scorching, distorted solos that might be counted the distant ancestors of heavy metal.” 
  10. Dicaire, David (1999). Blues Singers: Elmore James entry. McFarland. Retrieved on 2013-06-02. 
  11. John Morthland (2013), How Elmore James Invented Metal, Wondering Sound, eMusic
  12. Elmore James Biography, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
  13. Robert Santelli (1997), The Best of the Blues: The 101 Essential Albums, page 377-378, Penguin Books
  14. V. Bogdanov, C. Woodstra, S. T. Erlewine, eds, All Music Guide to the Blues: The Definitive Guide to the Blues (Backbeat, 3rd edn., 2003), pp. 700-2.

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