Blues great David "Honeyboy" Edwards dead at 96

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David Honeyboy Edwards
  • David "Honeyboy" Edwards
Back when I worked at Jazz Record Mart in the late 80s and early 90s and I was immersing myself in the blues, I yearned to hear acoustic bluesmen who were more than quaint, folksy simulacra of a long-gone era. I got my wish in 1988 when Earwig Records released White Windows, a raw solo collection by singer and guitarist David "Honeyboy" Edwards. I saw him a few times after the record came out and I felt a real charge: here was one of the last links to the originators of the Delta blues, right in front of me. Edwards died in his sleep yesterday at age 96. He played his last gigs back in April at a blues festival in Clarksdale, Mississippi, not too far from where he grew up. Anyone paying attention probably knew that he gigged relentlessly.

It's a terrible loss, further diminishing the pool of old-school bluesmen and robbing Chicago of yet another vibrant icon. As many have written, he was a living piece of blues history. But we can continue to celebrate his long, rich life and enjoy the handful of recordings he made over his career. My personal favorite is the killer 1979 album he cut for the Folkways label. When it was reissued on CD by Smithsonian Folkways as Mississippi Delta Bluesman, I wrote, "His cracked, ravaged voice is distinguished by a noble soulfulness, and his guitar playing, punctuated by percussive string snapping, is nimble and spare; together they make for a concentrated goosebump-raising intensity that has little to do with the grimaces and wanky pyrotechnics that pass for passion on the contemporary blues scene."

Below you can see the trailer for the 2002 documentary about Edwards called Honeyboy.

photo: Bengt Nyman

Today's playlist:

Mick Rossi, Songs From the Broken Land (Orange Mountain Music)
Brian Ferneyhough, Terrain (Kairos)
Lloyd Miller & the Heliocentrics, Lloyd Miller & the Heliocentrics (Strut)
Ryan Trevor, Introducing Ryan Trevor (Galactic Zoo Disk/Drag City)
Uri Caine Bedrock, Plastic Temptation (Winter & Winter)

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