“The blues singers accepted the dread but refused the piety; they sang as if their understanding of the devil was strong enough to force a belief in God out of their own lives. They lived man’s fear of life, and they became artists of the fear.” (Mystery Train 23)
So far nothing good about piety. It is not redeemed in my mind. But would I rather understand the devil or God? God, I think. God cannot be grasped. The devil is sneaky and unpredictable, at least I can rely on that. So is it a balance thing between necessary opposing forces of separating holiness and miring reality? Dunno. Sometimes closeness to death in the struggle and yearning of the blues is enough for me. Downhearted, forced mopiness? Naw. Some day I will live out the holy yearnings of my will. For now trying to be holy by removing myself from the struggle is desperately unfullfiling. If that’s the show, then I’m outta here. The blues is not about transcendence, rather nearness to life*. It’s describing life; may surmounting it come everafter. Sexy love is in the gospel, and grace is in the blues and blues is in the gospel and gospel is in the blues.
There are so many church songs that sing of a glorious someday in the sweet bye-and-bye: When I Can Read My Titles Clear, (There’ll Be) Peace in the Valley (Someday), I Can Only Imagine. Others speak to pacification on earth This is the Air I Breathe, Amazing Love, God of Wonders, Awesome God, Shine Jesus ShineSome great songs call down descriptions of moments of peace, strength or help on earth: Amazing Grace, I Saw the Light, It is Well With My Soul. To say the blues has sex and love; the gospel has grace. Gospel grace sex blues love.
“…cunning is an outmaneuvering of the enemy for the purpose of rendering him powerless, in order to offer him the opportunity for restoration” (Dan B. Allander, Bold Love 155)
* “Blues grew out of the need to live in the brutal world that stood ready in ambush the moment one walked out of the church. Unlike gospel, blues was not a music of transcendence; its equivalent to God’s Grace was sex and love. Blues made the terrors of the world easier to endure, but blues also made those terrors more real. For a man like Johnson, the promises of the church faded; they could not be remembered–as one sang church songs; perhaps even when one prayed, when one was too scared not to–but those promises could not be lived. Once past some unmarked border, one could not go back. The weight of Johnson’s blues was strong enough to make salvation a joke; the best he could do was cry for its beautiful lie” (29). Mystery Train by Greil Marcus.
Fire in My Bones
Face a Frowning World