“Bluesland – A Portrait in American Music” is another fine
documentary film in the Masters of American Music series.
Dating from 1993, this 2010 DVD release is a companion
disc to the other volumes that I’ve discussed featuring
Sarah Vaughan, Thelonious Monk and Count Basie.
Fortunately, this 85-minute DVD is longer than those other
films and provides a complete 20th Century history of the
Blues in America. It is primarily narrated by actor Keith David,
with scholarly insights from author-historian Robert Palmer.
It’s amazing how much ground is covered on this disc, taking us
from the early performances of Charley Patton and Blind Lemon
Jefferson through the careers of Ma Rainey (the Mother
of the Blues), Bessie Smith, T-Bone Walker, Muddy Waters,
B.B. King, and many others.
Along the way, the genre connections are made between the
Blues and Jazz, with footage featuring Louis Armstrong and
Duke Ellington, as well as a delineation to the early Rock
performances by Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley. Even the Rolling
Stones are featured here, with black and white footage
included from their mid-1960’s performance of a tune by
Muddy Waters. These clips clearly emphasize how Jazz and
Rock & Roll genres grew out of the Blues.
In addition to serving as the roots of the aforementioned
musical genre “tree,” Robert Palmer discussed the fact that
the Blues is virtually devoid of European influences, and
thereby stands as a musical category which is truly indigenous
Along with the previously discussed volumes of the
American Masters series, “Bluesland: A Portrait in American
Music” is another good, educational documentary. I highly