Read Tony’s Latest Articles

Robert Johnson: The Legend vs. The Man vs. The Devil

There’s Robert Johnson the country blues legend and Robert Johnson the man and somewhere in the mix is the devil. With the help of blues researchers and latter-day biographers, Anthony Mostrom makes a deep dive into the musical past to give Robert Johnson—cited by the likes of Keith Richards and Eric Clapton as a near demigod—his due but he also sets him in context alongside contemporaries (and mentors) like Charley Patton, Son House, Skip James and Willie Brown. Like many figures of legend (Morrison, Joplin, Hendrix), Johnson was dead at 27, but his music continues to haunt and inspire.

Guitarist Derek Bailey: Free for All Improvisor

Derek Bailey (1930-2005) was a successful guitarist playing pop music in dance halls and jazz in nightclubs in England when he had his ‘road to Damascus’ collision with Anton Webern and free jazz. From the mid-1960s until his death, Bailey worked with such avant-garde giants as Anthony Braxton, Gavin Bryars, Evan Parker, Han Bennink, King Crimson’s Jamie Muir and Keith Tippett, among others, spreading a free improvisation gospel. Players like Henry Kaiser, Eugene Chadbourne, Fred Frith, John Zorn and Thurston Moore have picked up the trail in Bailey’s wake.