Delta Blues

May 7, 2011

Scary times these days along the muddiest of waters, the Mississippi River, as it gets ready to top the historic flood levels of 1927.  The article linked above highlights the fears for the Delta area of the river, which is also the home to the blues, that distinctly American form of popular music developed by Afro-American sharecroppers after the Civil War.  The style migrated north with blacks fleeing Jim Crow and seeking economic opportunity, and it hooked up with electricity in the Chicago Style, of which Muddy Waters is one of the most famous artists.  From there, after WWII, it found its way to the UK and southern, white, urban performers such as Elvis Presley, and thence to rock ‘n’ roll, rock, heavy metal, and beyond, and finally back to roots revival.

The Delta area is not the actual fluvial delta of the Mississippi River, i.e, the place where it discharges into the Gulf of Mexico and creates the bird-foot patters of sediment.  It’s actually upstream where the Mississippi and Yazoo Rivers converge, including the point where the state boundaries of Mississippi, Louisiana, and Arkansas meet.

For an engineer with an interest in hydraulics and geography, there’s nothing like a good flood, and I follow the news stories on them closely.  Those who don’t have my technical interest might find John McPhee’s chapter on the Mississippi in his book, The Control of Nature, compelling.

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