Blues is a particular kind of folk music, originating in the USA and arising from the work songs and spirituals of Americans of African descent. It is a music of deep humanity and endless variation, usually simple in construction. Indeed, blues songs often have just three chords and a use a repetition of lyrics in the form AAB. Here’s a verse from one of the most famous blues songs of all time, Robert Johnson’s ‘Cross Road Blues’ (aka ‘Crossroads’).

I went to the crossroad, fell down on my knees

I went to the crossroad, fell down on my knees

Asked the Lord above "Have mercy, now save poor Bob, if you please”

Over eighty years after Johnson recorded that song, the blues survive, perhaps because people continue to struggle: themes of poverty, relationships and spiritual meaning are timeless.

Although each country has, by definition, its own folk music (hence, World music), the traditions having the most influence on Western popular music are those of the UK (Fairport Convention since 1967, The Unthanks in the 21st century) and the US (Woody Guthrie, Bob Dylan, Buffy Saint-Marie). But as noted, folk is music of the world, so travelling might connect you with something from Ireland (Mary Black or The Pogues) or, closer to home, Australia’s Redgum.

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