Monday, 9 July 2007


Brief but right to the point, and so handily quotable, this is Uncut editor Allan Jones' generous review in the current (August) issue:

“He inspired one of Bob Dylan’s greatest songs and is now the subject of Michael Gray’s fascinating biographical profile Hand Me My Travelin’ Shoes: In Search Of Blind Willie McTell : Bloomsbury * * * * *.
Gray, the author of titanic tomes on Dylan, is a fastidious researcher and here presents not just an authoritative portrait of the great bluesman, but also vivid history of the South in general and the area of rural Georgia that was mostly home to McTell, with an especially vivid account of the Civil War and the shaping consequences of the reconstruction of the South that followed. Gray is also a sharply observant travel writer and some of the book’s best writing is devoted to brilliantly evocative descriptions of the backwaters he visits and the people he meets.”


Robert W. Harwood said...

Congratulations on "Hand Me Down My Travelin' Shoes!" My copy arrived today (I had to order it from England). Informative, very interesting, and in places laugh-out-loud. This is a great read!
I have spent five years researching and writing about the song "St. James Infirmary" - its origins and early recording history (including some details about the genesis of "Dying Crapshooter's Bues"). Of course McTell enters the narrative, and I have long been itching to hear his comments on - and rendition of - SJI. Larry Cohn promises to release the full session (in a very expensive box-set), but that has been several times delayed.
Again, Mr. Gray, you've written a marvellous book - it is destined to remain in print for a very long time.
Bob Harwood
Kitchener, Ontario, Canada

Michael Gray said...

Dear Bob
Thanks for this very warm - and swift! - feedback. I'm very pleased.

Re SJI, I've heard the full version and I fear you may find it disappointing, if only because it comes very late on in the session, by which time Willie has been fed a good deal of whiskey. All the same, of course it's great to have a McTell version at all, and it does tip its hat briefly to its commonality with 'Dyin' Crapshooter's Blues'.

At the risk of plugging another of my books just as you've paid for this one, you might be interested to know that there is a chapter of my Song & Dance Man III: The Art of Bob Dylan devoted to McTell. Its biographical info has been thoroughly superceded by the research that yielded Hand Me My Travelin' Shoes, but there's a long and detailed scrutiny of how the traditional song cluster 'The Unfortunate Rake' transmutes into 'The Streets of Laredo', 'St. James Infirmary' and 'Dyin' Crapshooter's Blues' (and, eventually, into Dylan's own great song 'Blind Willie McTell').

Your own study of SJI will have been more detailed still, I expect, but nonetheless you may find mine of interest.

Best wishes, and thanks again for writing~

dan mayfield said...

Dan Mayfield
Assistant Arts Editor
Albuquerque Journal
(505) 823-3921, (800) 990-5765

My name is Dan Mayfield, I'm an entertainment reporter at the Albuquerque Journal in Albuquerque, New Mexico. I'm looking to talk to somebody about Dylan, to put some perspective on his new record and his latest tour. Are you available? Couldn't find a contact, so I tried a comment....
Dan Mayfield

Michael Gray said...

Yes, but Dan, I've already sent you an off-list e-mail reply to this - to the exact e-address you've supplied.