Tommy Flint,
Kentucky Thumbpicking Blues for Guitar
(Mel Bay, 2003)

Tommy Flint grew up in Muhlenberg County, Kentucky, where coal-mining was a difficult and dangerous occupation. Moreover, miners didn't get paid in U.S. currency but were given scrip to "purchase" items at the company store. Flint says the blues tunes in this book are a style that originated with the miners of Muhlenberg County.

Musicians like Mose Rager, who had been a miner turned businessman, had learned his blues from listening to other miners including the likes of Amos Johnson, Jim Mason and Jody Burton and these and a few more are mentioned in the preface. Flint, in his turn, says he listened often to Rager, studied and absorbed much of his style.

This fingerpicking instruction booklet celebrates those hard-living miners and the music that gave them solace, entertainment and an outlet for their troubles.

The music sheets present solo numbers at the intermediate level. Learners can follow in notation or tab, and listen to and play along with the CD. The CD itself is nice listening for an instruction piece because there's a little guitar accompaniment, and I don't think it's distracting at this level.

The 15 tunes that cover a lot of territory and give a wide measure of this style are all worthy of a spot in this book. The book itself has a soft shiny cover and crisp white pages. Pictures of mines and miners are added for background interest and they are an important context and help us understand the historical and social impact of this music on Flint and the families and musicians he knew.

This appears to be one of Mel Bay's authentic works and I'm passing it on to my 17-year-old guitar-playing nephew who's just discovering his way to the blues and we'll see how he gets along with it. My guess is, he's going to enjoy it and learn quite a bit from it.

- Rambles
written by Virginia MacIsaac
published 6 March 2004

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