About The Books
Blues Portrait – A Profile of the Australian Blues Scene by Pauline Bailey Volumes 1, 2, 3 and 4
“Blues Portrait” provides a snapshot of the contemporary Australian blues scene. 172 musicians across four volumes share their thoughts and insights about their musical journeys and describe, in their own words, how they discovered the blues and what it means to them. The books explore how they have each shaped the broad, rich and diverse blues scene we have in Australia.
About Blues Portrait
In November 2019 I self-published my first book, Blues Portrait. This was followed by Volumes 2 and 3 which were released simultaneously in November 2021. The most recent installment, Volume 4, was published in 2023. I have always had a passion for Australian music – blues music in particular, and I’ve always believed that Australian blues has been overlooked in the musical landscape. When I started looking for books on the subject, I was surprised to discover that no one had properly documented this genre, so in 2017 I decided to track down some of this country’s blues legends. I was curious about their experiences and stories, and I thought other people might be interested in hearing them as well. I began with some friends and artists that I knew, and started the process of interviewing, transcribing, writing and building a profile of each artist on my list. Once I started interviewing people it quickly became evident that the blues scene was far more diversified and expansive than I had anticipated. The initial interviews were only the tip of the iceberg – each person took me down a different road, and I discovered many more people keen to tell their stories.
The end result is a collection of 172 people spread across four books, illustrating this country’s broad and impressive blues culture. Because the books also discuss how blues has affected and influenced other musical styles, I’ve included people who aren’t technically “blues” – individuals with a variety of backgrounds, influences, and inspirations, but who all have one thing in common: the desire to make music. I’m extremely grateful to every one of these incredible musicians for generously sharing their time, stories, and perspectives on what it means to be a musician.
Vol 1 viii, 369pp soft cover, colour pics throughout
“Blues Portrait is an incredible book which documents the Australian blues music scene and it’s amazing musicians.” – Peter D. Harper
“Pauline Bailey’s “Blues Portrait” book series has every artist telling their story in their own words. The insights, philosophies, outlooks and tales make for a great read. Her choices for inclusion are interesting and diverse, the variety gives the book a wonderfully rich texture, and her interviewing style obviously made every one of them feel relaxed enough to open up.” – Craig B.
“If you collect music biographies (or just want a good read) you need this book. It fills a big void in any collection because there are so few books about blues musicians – especially Australian ones. Even if you’re not a blues fan (God forbid!), the book is full of great down-to-earth chats with the likes of Kevin Borich, Bob Spencer, Phil Para and Kerri Simpson, to name but a few.” – Sharon B.
“I learnt so much and filled in a lot of gaps that I didn’t even know were gaps in this wonderful music scene we have here. So grateful to have this book.” – Grant
“Can certainly recommend this book to any music enthusiast, no matter what their preferred genre is – the blues is where it all began for the music of today.” – Lee
“An unparalleled reference on blues music in Australia. Part 4 of this excellent series of books about the Australian blues scene does not disappoint and goes a huge way to furthering the knowledge base of this widely variable genre of music and those who keep it alive for now, and for future generations. Pauline Bailey has taken on this monumental task with gusto, and along the way has created an unparalleled reference of those who eat, breathe, live and play the blues.” – Andrew F
Pauline Bailey – Blues Portrait: A Profile of the Australian Blues Scene (Vol 1)
CD review by Tony Smith – TN2544 – $40
While Pauline Bailey can be modest about her important undertaking, others will describe appropriately this 2019 reference work of 369 pages not as ‘a’ but as ‘the’ profile of Australian blues.
The compendium of 46 blues musicians is the first of four volumes.
Bailey supplied her email address for others who wanted to be included in future volumes and was inundated with offers.
As editor, Bailey has not attempted to strictly define ‘blues’.
The artists have self-selected according to their interest.
Simply, the definition emerges as what people who sing and play with passion do.
Each volume has a foreword and some pithy quotations about the blues, music and life.
In the first volume, Max Crawdaddy says that the story is not so much about where you came from but where the blues is taking you.
Bailey’s touch is light.
She supplies a succinct biography of each artist as a neat introduction to their autobiographical entry.
These arose in interviews and there might have been a template to guide the participants, but their comments range widely and the variation in length suggests that they all gave expression to everything they wanted to say.
From the way in which the artists describe their influences it is clear that they either directly or indirectly acknowledge the great blues pioneers among African Americans of the early twentieth century.
With such antecedents and role models, it is perhaps not surprising that the majority of artists featured here are white Anglo and male.
Everyone will be able to think of blues musicians they would like to see included.
More women and Indigenous artists would be very good.
Perhaps, if there is a fifth volume, as there should be, these will feature, especially as younger musicians establish themselves in the genre.
As well as text there are many excellent photographs of the artists either alone or with other performers.
From these it is clear that as well as being primarily about singers and song lyrics, the blues involve virtuosic instrument playing.
Guitars, electric and acoustic; slide guitar, lap and bottleneck; bass, upright and electric; piano, drums and harmonica feature prominently.
This is not to disqualify other instruments, as woodwinds and brass also appear.
The musicians are like Bailey herself, multi-talented.
They have been involved in activities such as film and television and some have authored books.
There are many award winning musicians here and they have been welcomed to a variety of festivals.
As well as the obvious blues fests, they have appeared at festivals of folk, jazz and rock.
This shows the cognate genres where they are equally at home.
It is not surprising that among Bailey’s many talents, she is a painter, whose artworks include heritage hotels.
While pubs are traditional venues for emerging and established rock groups, really they would struggle to fill their programs without the enthusiasm of blues artists.
It is difficult to do justice to the many artists in this first volume and every reader will have favourites.
I have to admit to turning straight to the entries for Jeff Lang, Ian Collard, Dave Hole, Fiona Boyes, Dom Turner, Rob Hirst, Ash Grunwald, Kerri Simpson and Steve Lucas.
These volumes would make excellent stocking fillers at any time of the year.
At $40, this handsomely presented first volume would be welcomed by any blues fan.
This volume and indeed the entire series should be in every library with a music section, public, high school or conservatorium.