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Mississippi Delta: Style of Blues
History and Highlights
Style of Blues
Songs and Musicians
Mississippi Delta

Style of Blues
The Mississippi Delta gave birth to a blues style that links most directly to the work songs and field hollers of slaves on Southern plantations. The slaves brought the musical traditions of their African homelands to America and, with limited resources for playing music, used their voices as instruments, accompanied by hand-clapping as percussion. The resulting Delta blues style is regarded as the most elemental form and is characterized by uneven rhyming patterns, minimal melody, spoken rather than sung lyrics, and moaning vocalizations.

As the musical form began to evolve, Delta blues artists often worked solo, accompanying themselves on guitar or harmonica. Bottleneck and slide guitar, a rough and rhythmic intensity, and raw, passionate vocalizing continue to serve as identifiers of the Delta Blues style.

Listen for the percussive style of slide guitar in Bukka White's "Panama Limited" and the emotive vocalizations in Robert Johnson's "Cross Road Blues," below:

Audio Sample
Title: "Panama Limited"
Written and performed by: Bukka White
Recorded: 1930
Source: Public Domain
Available to teachers on: The Blues Teacher's Guide CD

Audio Sample
Title: "Cross Road Blues"
Written and performed by: Robert Johnson (Publisher: LEHSEM II, LLC/Claud L. Johnson)
Recorded: 1937
Source: Robert Johnson Box Set (Columbia/Legacy, 64916)
Available to teachers on: The Blues Teacher's Guide CD