"This book is amazing. Well researched, opinionated and controversial
(I'm sure a couple of barroom fistfights will occur), but written with
such honesty, intelligence and love for the music that it's difficult
to sum up my feelings in a couple of sentences."
--Dave Alvin, musician and songwriter
"Throughout, Wald writes better than anyone else ever has about the
blues. If you read only one book about blues -- maybe ever -- read this
one. Not just for bluesniks; this is great Black history, too".
-- American Library Association Booklist
“Wald places Johnson in his proper context, allowing us to hear
him as he would have been heard in 1936. . . Wald's view of American
culture is wonderfully bold and bracing. . . . In the context of most
writing about popular music, "Escaping the Delta" is more than a tonic.
It's champagne, Muddy Waters' favorite drink.”
-- Anthony Heilbut, Los Angeles Times
Book Review cover story
“A highly outspoken, well-researched look at the era in which
Johnson lived, his music and the latter-day reassessment of the musician.”
--Bill Ellis, Memphis Commercial Appeal
"Escaping the Delta is a scholarly and fascinating addition to the growing
lexicon of literature about the Blues."
-- Bonnie Raitt
"a gentle wake-up call, and by far the best of the three books
on the Johnson myth published this year."
-- Eric Weisbard, New York Times Book Review
"elegant and original . . . What makes Wald's revisionist account
particularly attractive is his civilised tone and his insistence on
drawing a map of blues country according to what the inhabitants say
about it, rather than previous explorers."
--Tony Russell, New Humanist
A major work that should find a place in the library of every blues
--Paul Garon, Living Blues
"Wald offers a persuasive and unconventional portrait of Johnson as
a skillful, ambitious creative artist rather than the anti-social misfit
of folklore. . . . More than anything, what shines through this book
is the sheer, informed love of the music."
-- Mark Polizzotti, The New Republic
"Elijah Wald overturns the myths and puts Johnson's music into a broader,
often surprising context . . . Thanks to his examination and research,
a new picture of Johnson emerges . . . The performances remain singular.
Robert Johnson seems familiar.
-- Barry Mazor, Wall Street Journal
"Not only a great survey for blues beginners, but a bomb that explodes
all the romantic notions
we have about race, class, and the creation of the blues at the crossroads."
-- Josh Rogers, Portland Phoenix
"Wald takes the blues home, puts the music in context with its varied
audiences, from the original fans in the juke joints to the listeners
who heard blues songs long after their creation . . . Wald's is a story
of race, to be sure, of black musicians, primarily, and black and white
audiences. And he sets his history in a full social context . . . full
of insight and intelligence."
-- Susan Larson, New Orleans Times-Picayune
"Perhaps I shouldn't put something just off the press in this
category, but I'm enormously impressed by this history of the blues.
It strips away the starry-eyed romanticism that has afflicted most writing
about blues (including some of mine, in the past) and traces the genre's
history as a living breathing popular art form."
-- Barry "Dr. Demento" Hansen, in readersvoice.com, replying
to a request for his five favorite books of all time.
"As persuasive as the lesson he imparts is, Wald never puts you in mind
of the dusty academic . . . never less than thoroughly compelling .
. . having disabused Johnson's admirers of their dearly held beliefs,
Wald offers something richer in their stead: clear-eyed, vibrant history
rather than misty fairy tale."
-- Glenn Dixon, Washington City Paper
"Un livre passionant qui bouscule le corpus d'idées
reçues . . ."
-- Thomas Sotinel, Le Monde
". . . a thoughtful, impassioned historical essay . . . The best studies
inspire further study, and the best music books inspire further listening.
Escaping the Delta could well do both."
-- Daniel Cooper, The Washington Post
“Elijah Wald has come to be known as a ‘revisionist historian.’
But Escaping the Delta is actually not revisionist at all. It merely
looks back at Johnson . . . with context and common sense.”
-- Steve Knopper, Chicago Tribune
"By avoiding the unproven tales accepted by other chroniclers -- and
offering a broader
contextual look at the strange evolution of blues, with Johnson as a
case study -- Wald
unearths freshness and surprise from well-trodden ground."
-- David Beard, Boston Globe
"Wald uses the blues virtuoso Robert Johnson as a springboard to deflate
notions of the music. His arguments are thoughtful and well researched,
and blues fans who come to his book with an open mind or readers who
are simply interested in learning more about Johnson will be amply rewarded."
-- Ted Drozdowski, Boston Phoenix
"Elijah Wald does an admirable job of separating legend from fact,
and establishing a sense of what life in Johnson's time was like."
-- Tom Moon, The Philadelphia Inquirer
"Elijah Wald makes a heroic effort to reconcile the origins of blues
with its current forms, even at
the cost of deconstructing his own sacred cows. The result is a book
any American music lover
will find enlightening."
--Woody Mitchell, The Charlotte Observer
"Wald devotes three glorious chapters to an almost bar-for-bar discussion
of Johnson's slim
volume of recorded work. Wald has the ability to bring fresh appreciation
to timeless songs like
'Kind-Hearted Woman' and 'Come On in My Kitchen,' and to explain the
songs, such as 'Dead Shrimp Blues' and 'They're Red Hot.'"
-- Mike Francis, Portland Oregonian
"Wald writes entertainingly and informatively, and often eloquently,
with detailed source notes to
back his contentions about how the shape of black music changed with
its audiences. . . a fascinating and knowledgeable book."
-- Jim White, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
"In foregrounding the blues as the dynamic popular entertainment of
its day rather than the reverential marker of authenticity it has become,
Escaping the Delta takes the reader for a thoroughly enjoyable ride
on the road that led to rock 'n' roll and the blues revival that followed.
Along the way Elijah Wald explodes a few myths, points up the absurdity
of recording industry marketing categories, illuminates the porousness
of the folk/pop divide, and teaches us to appreciate Robert Johnson
in a whole new light."
-- Reebee Garofalo, author of Rockin'
Out: Popular Music in the USA
"Elijah Wald takes a fresh look at blues history, particularly at the
romantic myths that have grown up around Delta blues. The result is
a thoughtful and rigorously considered account of a profoundly American
musical genre that helped to define the twentieth century"
--Dick Spottswood, ethnic music scholar, writer and editor
"Wald's precision aids him in his quest to re-analyze America's perception
of the blues as well as in trying to decipher the music's murky true
origins and history. Using a lengthy comparison of how white Americans
and black Americans define the blues, Wald demonstrates how Johnson
fit into the gray area between the two. Wald combines a short bio of
Johnson with detailed analysis of his songs and the mysterious tales
that are associated with him, giving a thorough account of Johnson's
life, music and legend."
-- Publishers Weekly
“Escaping the Delta does an extraordinary job of sifting through
the myths in order to unearth reality.”
-- Robert Gabriel, Austin Chronicle
"Agree with the author or not, most readers will find Escaping the Delta
fascinating reading. And they're sure to learn something new on almost
-- Joe L. White, Jackson Clarion-Ledger