Blues Genres Directory
A directory of the main blues genres together with a brief description of the genre and stylistic origins
Introduction to the details listed
Blues Genres – the commonly used terms for blues music categories
More information about each genre can be found by clicking the genre name, this will take you to the associated Wikipedia entry if present or to an other source if not.
Stylistic Origins – the influential origins for the genre
Synposis – a brief description of the genre with examples of blues artists typifying the genre
The genres listed mainly refer to the US, including the folk music of Louisiana (Zydeco, Cajun and Creole), plus the blues of Africa, Canada and Britain.
Blues Genres Directory …..
|Blues Genres||Stylistic Origins||Synopsis|
|African blues||Music of West Africa||African Blues is a genre of popular music, primarily from West Africa. The term may also reference a putative journey undertaken by traditional African music from its homeland to the United States and back.Some scholars and ethnomusicologists have speculated that the origins of the blues can be traced to the musical traditions of Africa, as retained by African-Americans during and after slavery. Even though the blues is a key component of American popular music, its rural, African-American origins are largely undocumented, and its stylistic links with African instrumental traditions are somewhat tenuous. One musical influence that can be traced back to African sources is that of the plantation work songs with their call-and-response format, and more especially the relatively free-form field hollers of the later sharecroppers, which seem to have been directly responsible for the characteristic vocal style of the blues.|
|Blues rock||Electic blues, Rock, Blues, Rock and Roll||Blues Rock is a fusion genre combining elements of blues and rock. It is mostly an electric ensemble-style music with instrumentation similar to electric blues and rock: electric guitar, electric bass, and drums, often with Hammond organ. From its beginnings in the early- to mid-1960s, blues rock has gone through several stylistic shifts and along the way it inspired and influenced hard rock, Southern rock, and early heavy metal. Blues rock continues to be an influence in the 2010s, with performances and recordings by popular artists.|
|British blues||Blues, British jazz, Skiffle, Electric blues||British Blues is a form of music derived from American blues that originated in the late 1950s and which reached its height of mainstream popularity in the 1960s, when it developed a distinctive and influential style dominated by electric guitar and made international stars of several proponents of the genre including The Rolling Stones, The Animals, Eric Clapton, Fleetwood Mac and Led Zeppelin.|
|Cajun||Acadian ballads||Cajun music is an emblematic music of Louisiana played by the Cajuns, is rooted in the ballads of the French-speaking Acadians of Canada. Cajun music is often mentioned in tandem with the Creole-based zydeco music, both of Acadiana origin, and both of which have influenced the other in many ways. These French Louisiana sounds have influenced American popular music for many decades, especially country music, and have influenced pop culture through mass media, such as television commercials.|
|Canadian blues||Blues, Chicago blues, Electric blues, Jump blues, Blues rock||Canadian Blues is the blues and blues-related music (e.g., blues rock) performed by blues bands and performers in Canada. Canadian blues artists include singers, players of the main blues instruments: guitar (acoustic and electric), harmonica (“blues harp”), keyboards (piano and Hammond organ), bass and drums, songwriters and music producers. In many cases, blues artists take on multiple roles. For example, the Canadian blues artist Steve Marriner is a singer, harmonica player, guitarist, songwriter and record producer.|
|Chicago blues||Delta||Chicago Blues is a form of blues music indigenous to Chicago, Illinois. Chicago blues is an electric blues style of urban blues. Urban blues evolved from classic blues following the Great Migration, or the Great Northern Drive, which was both forced and voluntary at times, of African Americans from the southern United States to the industrial cities of the north, such as Chicago. Muddy Waters directly joined that migration, like many others, avoiding the more harsh southern Jim Crow laws. Bruce Iglauer, founder of Alligator Records stated that, “Chicago blues is the music of the industrial city, and has an industrial sense about it.” Additionally, recognizing the shift in blues, Chicago blues singer and guitarist Kevin Moore expressed the blues transition stating, “You have to put some new life into it, new blood, new perspectives. You can’t keep talking about mules, workin’ on the levee.” Chicago blues was heavily influenced by Mississippi bluesmen who traveled to Chicago in the early 1940s. The development of blues, up to Chicago blues, is arguably as follows: Country blues, to city blues, to urban blues. Chicago blues is based on the sound of the electric guitar and the harmonica, with the harmonica played through a PA system or guitar amplifier, both heavily amplified and often to the point of distortion, and a rhythm section of drums and bass (double bass at first, and later bass guitar) with piano depending on the song or performer.|
|Classic Female blues||African American folk music, work songs, spirituals||Classic Female Blues is an early form of blues music, popular in the 1920s. An amalgam of traditional folk blues and urban theater music, the style is also known as vaudeville blues. Classic blues were performed by female singers accompanied by pianists or small jazz ensembles and were the first blues to be recorded. Ma Rainey, Bessie Smith, Ethel Waters, and the other singers in this genre were instrumental in spreading the popularity of the blues.|
|Country blues||Blues, Folk, Country||Country Blues is an acoustic, mainly guitar-driven forms of the blues that mixes blues elements with characteristics of country and folk. After blues’ birth in the Southern United States, it quickly spread throughout the country (and elsewhere), giving birth to a host of regional styles. These include Memphis, Detroit, Chicago, Texas, Piedmont, Louisiana, West Coast, St. Louis, East Coast, Swamp, New Orleans, Delta, Hill country and Kansas City blues.
When the African-American musical tastes began to change in the early 1960s, moving toward soul and rhythm and blues music, country blues found renewed popularity as “folk blues” and was sold to a primarily white, college-age audience. Traditional artists like Big Bill Broonzy and Sonny Boy Williamson II reinvented themselves as folk blues artists, while Piedmont bluesmen like Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee found great success on the folk festival circuit.
|Creole||Creole music is a genre of folk music in Louisiana. One possible definition of Creole folk music is this: melodies, sometimes including dance-related instrumental accompaniments, sung in Louisiana French and Louisiana Creole by Louisiana Creole people of French, Spanish, Native, and/or African.|
|Delta blues||Blues||Delta Blues is one of the earliest-known styles of blues music. It originated in the Mississippi Delta, a region of the United States stretching from Memphis, Tennessee, in the north to Vicksburg, Mississippi, in the south and from Helena, Arkansas, in the west to the Yazoo River in the east. The Mississippi Delta is famous for its fertile soil and for its poverty. Delta blues is regarded as a regional variant of country blues. Guitar and harmonica are its dominant instruments; slide guitar (usually played on a steel guitar) is a hallmark of the style. Vocal styles in Delta blues range from introspective and soulful to passionate and fiery.|
|Detroit blues||Delta blues||Detroit Blues is Blues played by musicians residing in and around Detroit, Michigan, particularly in the 1940s and 1950s. Detroit blues originated when Delta blues performers migrated north from the Mississippi Delta and Memphis, Tennessee, to work in industrial plants in Detroit in the 1920s and 1930s. Typical Detroit blues is similar in style to Chicago blues. Its sound is distinguished from Delta blues by the use of electric amplified instruments and more varied instrumentation, including the bass guitar and piano. The only Detroit blues performer to achieve national fame was John Lee Hooker, as record companies and promoters have tended to ignore the Detroit scene in favor of the larger, more influential Chicago blues. The Detroit scene was centered on the Black Bottom neighborhood.|
|Electric blues||Blues||Electric Blues refers to any type of blues music distinguished by the use of electric amplification for musical instruments. The guitar was the first instrument to be popularly amplified and used by early pioneers T-Bone Walker in the late 1930s and John Lee Hooker and Muddy Waters in the 1940s. Their styles developed into West Coast blues, Detroit blues, and post-World War II Chicago blues, which differed from earlier, predominantly acoustic-style blues. By the early 1950s, Little Walter was a featured soloist on blues harmonica or blues harp using a small hand-held microphone fed into a guitar amplifier. Although it took a little longer, the electric bass guitar gradually replaced the stand-up bass by the early 1960s. Electric organs and especially keyboards later became widely used in electric blues.|
|Gospel blues||Spirituals, Blues, Hymns||Gospel Blues is a form of blues-based gospel music that has been around since the inception of blues music, a combination of blues guitar and evangelistic lyrics. Notable gospel blues performers include Blind Willie Johnson, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Reverend Gary Davis and Washington Phillips. Blues musicians such as Boyd Rivers, Blind Lemon Jefferson, Charley Patton, Sam Collins, Josh White, Blind Boy Fuller, Blind Willie Mctell, Bukka White, Sleepy John Estes and Skip James have recorded a fair number of Gospel and religious songs, these were often commercially released under a pseudonym.
Additionally, by the late 1950s and 1960s when some musicians had become devout, or even practicing clergy, this was the case for musicians such as the Reverend Robert Wilkins and Ishman Bracey.
|Hill Country blues||Blues, Country Blues||Hill Country Blues (also known as North Mississippi Hill Country Blues or North Mississippi Blues) is a regional style of country blues. It is characterized by a strong emphasis on rhythm and percussion, steady guitar riffs, few chord changes, unconventional song structures, and heavy emphasis on the “groove”, which has been characterized as the “hypnotic boogie”.
The hill country is a region of northern Mississippi bordering Tennessee. It lies in the counties of Marshall, Panola, Tate, Tippah, and Lafayette and straddles the ecoregions of the North Hilly Plain (Red Clay Hills or North Central Hills), the Loess Plains, and Bluff Hills. The hills have poor agricultural soil and wide forested areas, which led to the development of a lumber industry but only small farms. Holly Springs and Oxford, Mississippi, are often cited as centers of hill country music. The style is regarded as distinct from the blues of the Mississippi Delta, which lies west of the hill country.
|Hokum blues||Minstrel shows||Hokum Blues (or Hokum) is a particular song type of American blues music—a humorous song which uses extended analogies or euphemistic terms to make sexual innuendos. This trope goes back to early blues recordings and is used from time to time in modern American blues and blues rock.|
|Jump blues||Blues, Big band, Swing, Boogie-woogie, Jazz||Jump Blues is an up-tempo style of blues, usually played by small groups and featuring saxophone or brass instruments. It was popular in the 1940s and was a precursor of rhythm and blues and rock and roll. Appreciation of jump blues was renewed in the 1990s as part of the swing revival.|
|Kansas City blues||Jump Blues, Jazz||Kansas City Blues is a genre of blues music. It has spawned the Kansas City Blues & Jazz festival and the Kansas City Blues Society. Kansas City, much like New Orleans, has a unique distinction of being a melting pot and a swingin’ capital of Jazz and Blues alike. While Kansas City is often recognized more for it’s Jazz than it’s Blues, the two sounds often fused and overlapped into jazzy blues jams ,making the musical output of the Missouri border city into what is known as Kansas City Blues or Jump Blues.|
|Louisiana blues||Blues, Dixieland, R&B, Zydeco||Louisiana Blues is a genre of blues music that developed in the period after World War II in the state of Louisiana. It is generally divided into two major subgenres, with the jazz-influenced New Orleans blues based on the musical traditions of that city and the slower tempo swamp blues incorporating influences from zydeco and Cajun music from around Baton Rouge. Major artists in the New Orleans tradition include Professor Longhair and Guitar Slim and for swamp blues Slim Harpo and Lightnin’ Slim. Both genres peaked in popularity in the 1960s and were covered by a number of rock artists. Interest declined in the later 1960s but there have been occasional revivals since the 1970s.|
|Memphis blues||Blues, Country Blues||Memphis Blues is a style of blues music created from the 1910s to the 1930s by musicians in the Memphis area, like Frank Stokes, Sleepy John Estes, Furry Lewis and Memphis Minnie. The style was popular in vaudeville and medicine shows and was associated with Beale Street, the main entertainment area in Memphis, W. C. Handy, the “Father of the Blues”, published the song “The Memphis Blues”. In lyrics, the phrase has been used to describe a depressed mood. In addition to guitar-based blues, jug bands, such as Gus Cannon’s Jug Stompers and the Memphis Jug Band, were extremely popular practitioners of Memphis blues. The jug band style emphasized the danceable, syncopated rhythms of early jazz and a range of other folk styles. It was played on simple, sometimes homemade, instruments such as harmonicas, violins, mandolins, banjos, and guitars, backed by washboards, kazoo, guimbarde and jugs blown to supply the bass.|
|New Orleans blues||Blues, Calypso, Dixieland, R&B||New Orleans Blues is a subgenre of blues music and a variation of Louisiana blues that developed in the 1940s and 1950s in and around the city of New Orleans, rooted by the rich blues roots of the city going back generations earlier. Strongly influenced by jazz and incorporated Caribbean influences, it is dominated by piano and saxophone but has also produced major guitar bluesmen. Major figures in the genre include Professor Longhair and Guitar Slim, who both produced major regional, R&B chart and even mainstream hits.|
|Piano blues||Boogie-Woogie, Ragtime, Blues||Piano Blues is a catch-all term for blues genres that are structured around the piano as the primary musical instrument. Boogie woogie is one of the best known styles of piano blues. Piano is also featured in Chicago blues and West Coast blues. Blues pianists also influenced the genres of swing, R&B, jazz, and rock and roll|
|Piedmont blues||Blues, Ragtime, Piano blues||Piedmont Blues (also known as East Coast, or Southeastern blues) refers primarily to a guitar style, the Piedmont fingerstyle, which is characterized by a fingerpicking approach in which a regular, alternating thumb bass string rhythmic pattern supports a syncopated melody using the treble strings generally picked with the fore-finger, occasionally others. The result is comparable in sound to ragtime or stride piano styles. Blues researcher Peter B. Lowry coined the term, giving co-credit to fellow folklorist Bruce Bastin. The Piedmont style is differentiated from other styles, particularly the Mississippi Delta blues, by its ragtime-based rhythms|
|R&B||Blues, Jazz, Spirituals||R&B (Rhythm and Blues) is a genre of popular music that originated in African American communities in the 1940s. The term was originally used by record companies to describe recordings marketed predominantly to urban African Americans, at a time when “urbane, rocking, jazz based music with a heavy, insistent beat” was becoming more popular. In the commercial rhythm and blues music typical of the 1950s through the 1970s, the bands usually consisted of piano, one or two guitars, bass, drums, one or more saxophones, and sometimes background vocalists. R&B lyrical themes often encapsulate the African-American experience of pain and the quest for freedom and joy, as well as triumphs and failures in terms of relationships, economics, aspirations, and sex.
The term “rhythm and blues” has undergone a number of shifts in meaning. In the early 1950s, it was frequently applied to blues records. Starting in the mid-1950s, after this style of music contributed to the development of rock and roll, the term “R&B” became used to refer to music styles that developed from and incorporated electric blues, as well as gospel and soul music. In the 1960s, several British rock bands such as the Rolling Stones, the Who and the Animals were referred to and promoted as being R&B bands; posters for the Who’s residency at the Marquee Club in 1964 contained the slogan, “Maximum R&B”. Their mix of rock and roll and R&B is now known as “British rhythm and blues”. By the 1970s, the term “rhythm and blues” changed again and was used as a blanket term for soul and funk. In the 1980s, a newer style of R&B developed, becoming known as “contemporary R&B”. It combines elements of rhythm and blues, pop, soul, funk, hip hop, and electronic music. Popular R&B vocalists at the end of the 20th century included Michael Jackson, Prince, R. Kelly, Stevie Wonder, Chaka Khan, Whitney Houston, and Mariah Carey.
|St. Louis blues||Blues, Jump blues, Ragtime, Piano blues||St. Louis Blues is a type of blues music. It is usually more piano-based than other forms of the blues and is closely related to jump blues, ragtime and piano blues. It is sometimes performed to a “Saint Louis shuffle” beat: a drum rhythm with heavy on-the-beat accents. A band performing St. Louis blues typically consists of one or a few singers, a pianist and a few other musical instruments (used primarily for rhythm), but it is also common for a guitarist to take the lead, even to play parts normally played on piano..|
|Swamp blues||Blues, Cajun music, Creole music, Country blues, Louisiana blues, Zydeco||Swamp Blues is a subgenre of blues music and a variation of Louisiana blues that developed around Baton Rouge in the 1950s and which reached a peak of popularity in the 1960s. Swamp blues is a laid-back, slow tempo, and generally more rhythmic variation of Louisiana blues, that incorporates influences from New Orleans blues, zydeco, soul music and Cajun music. It is characterized by simple but effective guitar work and is heavily influenced by the boogie patterns used on Jimmy Reed records and the work of Lightnin’ Hopkins and Muddy Waters. The sound of swamp blues was characterized by “eerie echo, shuffle beats, tremolo guitars, searing harmonica and sparse percussion”|
|Texas blues||Blues, Country blues, Swing, Jazz||Texas Blues is a style of blues music. It usually has more jazz- or swing-influences than other blues styles. Texas blues began to appear in the early 1900s among African Americans who worked in oilfields, ranches and lumber camps. In the 1920s, Blind Lemon Jefferson innovated the style by using jazz-like improvisation and single string accompaniment on a guitar; Jefferson’s influence defined the field and inspired later performers. During the Great Depression in the 1930s, many bluesmen moved to cities including Galveston, Houston and Dallas. It was from these urban centers that a new wave of popular performers appeared, including slide guitarist and gospel singer Blind Willie Johnson. Future bluesmen, such as, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Lil’ Son Jackson, and T-Bone Walker were influenced by these developments|
|West Coast blues||Blues, Jazz, Jump blues||West Coast Blues is a type of blues influenced by jazz and jump blues, with strong piano-dominated sounds and jazzy guitar solos, which originated from Texas blues players who relocated to California in the 1940s. West Coast blues also features smooth, honey-toned vocals, frequently crossing into urban blues territory. The towering figure of West Coast blues may be the guitarist T-Bone Walker.|
|Zydeco||Creole music, Cajun music, Blues, Jazz||Zydeco is a music genre that evolved in southwest Louisiana by French Creole speakers which blends blues, rhythm and blues, and music indigenous to the Louisiana Creoles and the Native people of Louisiana. Though distinct in origin from the Cajun music of Louisiana, the two forms frequently influenced each other, forming a complex of genres native to Louisiana.|