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Elijah Wald


Elijah Wald was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1959. Originally planning to make his living as a folk-blues guitarist, he went off to Europe as a traveling minstrel at age 18, and spent most of the next dozen years wandering around the world, fronting a blues band in Sevilla, Spain, a swing trio in Antwerp, Belgium, and a rock band at the Grand Hotel in Colombo, Sri Lanka, as well as studying with the Congolese master Jean-Bosco Mwenda. He also toured the United States numerous times, performing in low dives and honky-tonks, and has recorded two albums: Songster, Fingerpicker, Shirtmaker and Street Corner Cowboys.

In the early 1980s, he began writing for the Boston Globe, becoming the newspaper's "roots" and "world music" critic, as well as writing on American and international music for various magazines. His books include Josh White: Society Blues, the biography of the seminal folk-blues singer, and River of Song, a survey of contemporary music along the Mississippi River, undertaken as part of a multimedia project for the Smithsonian Institution. His most recent book is Narcocorrido (Rayo 2001), the first thorough study of the modern Mexican corrido, in particular the ballads of the drug trade and contemporary politics. He researched this book by hitch-hiking around Mexico and the southwestern United States for a year, traveling into the Mexican drug regions to interview the main composers in the corrido field as well as numerous local "folk" artists. Currently, he is completing work on a book rethinking the history and mythology of blues, with a focus on Robert Johnson.