I don’t know when I first heard the music in my head. I don’t remember not hearing it. Sometimes in the morning it would be the first thing I heard, shutting out the sounds of reality—the traffic outside the window and the people moving around. My mother would sit at the upright piano, playing and singing song after song off old pieces of sheet music from her past. I searched these songs for meaning. Like the cowboy songs of Gene Autry and Red River Dave, each song told a story of a remote place and time.
Experiencing Albert Murray through his books means accepting the dare of his prose: Read these pages out loud, Basie-swinging from sentence to sentence. Murray’s literary musicality emanates from his fluency in modernist techniques and his blues idiom intelligence.
Gospel belongs to God and the blues is the Devil’s business, and here the blues takes the form of Son Thomas, whose spare bottleneck slide strips the tradition down to its roots. Son’s been sculpting figures and heads and skulls from clay gathered in the nearby hills for just about as long as he’s been playing the blues, which is to say: all his life.
Texas Island isn’t an island, nor is it in Texas. It’s a vague peninsula around which wraps Moon Lake, an oxbow formed by an abandoned meander of the Mississippi River, twenty miles north of Clarksdale off Highway 61, near the hamlet of Lula.