Wednesday, 5 December 2007


Hand Me My Travelin' Shoes: In Search of Blind Willie McTell makes it into Metro's Music Books of the Year round-up today. They say:

"Blind Willie McTell’s world was certainly different. Michael Gray’s Hand Me My Travelin' Shoes is a humbling tale of a man from the 1920s Deep South whose country blues has continued to resonate throughout the generations, as Bob Dylan and Jack White have attested. Trying to actually tell his muddied story becomes as much a part of this fantastically written book as McTell himself."

Heartening stuff.


Jem said...

Hi - I've just finished and thoroughly enjoyed 'Hand Me My Travelin' Shoes'. I found it incredibly interesting, informative and moving. Thanks very much (I've recommended it to my daughter whose doing a History degree at York Uni. including a module on American Social History!).
I did want to find out more about the song - A-Z Blues. When I paid attention to the lyrics I was quite shocked (they describe from 'a-z' the various ways the singer is going to carve his woman up!!). I wondered what your 'take' on these lyrics was? Is this in the tradition of brutal mysogeny often represented in blues, (although these lyrics are esp nasty), or are the lyrics indicative of a darker side of Bl Willie McTell? Did he write/develop the lyrics or use them. It did strike me that such lyrics may represent a long tradition evident today in oft criticised 'hip-hop'/rap lyrics via Wynonie Harris etc. Would be interested in your views.



Michael Gray said...

Thanks for your comments. To answer your question I can't really say any more than in the book - the section beginning on page 101, final paragraph: "We might say that [the] absolute revention of all possibility of protest [against white oppression] is what underlies the endemic black-on-black violence in the society in which Willie grew up..." through to page 102 where I say that the song was "not autobiography but..."

I could just add that I don't think Willie was in any way a bully or a vicious man, but he wasn't above resorting to physical force, and like almost everyone in his day he went along with the assumption that women were inferior to men - and he probably didn't think too much about the shockingness of that lyric. He would have regarded its excesses as the jokey point of the song, I think. But for us, as I also say in the book, it still shocks.