Vincent Abbate – Who Is Blues Vol. 1 – Doug MacLeod | Book Review

Vincent AbbateWho Is Blues Vol. 1Doug MacLeod

Who Is BluesThe Beating Heart Behind The Music

143 pages

One of the finest acoustic blues artists working today, Doug MacLeod is a captivating singer and guitarist with numerous Blues Blast and Blues Music Awards to his credit. MacLeod is also a masterful storyteller, a fact that is borne out as you read this biography from noted blues journalist Vincent Abbate, who’s first encounter with MacLeod and his music triggered an emotional response of life-altering proportions. Abbate’s comments, along with a one page foreword from Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee Jorma Kaukonen, give readers a hint of the musical magic and the intense reactions to life’s experiences that are revealed in MacLeod’s work.

Once Abbate turns the narrative over to his subject, the stories flow with the ease and grace that are hallmarks for MacLeod’s live performances. Part of the book deals with his life as he struggled to overcome the stigma of stuttering. He bravely discusses long-repressed memories of abuse, the effects of which lead to a number of poor life-choices, and, ultimately, his attempts to deal with the abuse for his own well-being as well as that of his own family, as testified to in the title track of his award-winning album, Break The Chain. The chronicle also touches on his days of living dangerously while serving in the U.S. Navy, a tenure that he laughingly relates never included actually being on water.

The rest of the tale involves MacLeod relating the details of his career. During his Navy days, he was fortunate to meet a local guitar player, Ernest Banks, who started his musical education on becoming a more accomplished guitar player, but also teaching some hard-won lessons, like always being honest with your music, lessons that have served MacLeod well over the years. Eventually ending up in California, he formed his own band that backed up stars of that era like George “Harmonica” Smith and guitarist Pee Wee Crayton. While these men and others schooled MacLeod on playing blues music properly, more importantly they became life-long friends, blessing him with wisdom and humor that dramatically changed his approach to dealing with life and his own music. He also touches on his songwriting, providing several recollections about his songs that have been covered by other artists, with one involving Albert King being particularly memorable.

The book also includes eight pages of black & white photos from different periods of MacLeod’s life, and a thirteen page interview that the conclusion that Abbate conducted with MacLeod in 2002 in Berlin, published for the first time. Rather than taking the standard approach, Abbate structures the book to read like a conversation between friends, which allows MacLeod’s natural story telling abilities to shine brightly. Whether you are already a fan or hearing about him for the first time, reading this book will certainly deepen your appreciation for the artistry of Doug MacLeod.

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