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A SOFT PLACE TO LAY


Stories of the Blues: One girl's pilgrimage across America, tracing the history of Blues from its mirky beginnings in the Deep South, to the Northern ghettos.

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A SOFT PLACE TO LAY


Stories of the Blues: One girl's pilgrimage across America, tracing the history of Blues from its mirky beginnings in the Deep South, to the Northern ghettos.

In the Summer of 2011 at the age of 27, I packed in my job to drive across America in search of the Soul of the music I loved - Blues. I was a pretty foolhardy (or foolish) girl, on my own, and travelling through some of the most devastated and disenfranchised parts of America. But over moonshine and cigarettes, records and guitars, back yard porches, front yard stoops, and juke joint dance floors, I forged some extraordinary connections – friendships that crossed continents, prejudice, generations and beliefs for us to find common ground in music. 

Just before I got on the plane I remember being terrified of the four things that I later called my ‘armour of ignorance’. But, as it turned out, it was the very fact I was a white, young, woman from London, that afforded me a unique insight into their unfamiliar world, rather than distance me from it. Why I would drive 400 miles in a morning to sit on Jimmy Duck Holme’s front porch in Bentonia, Mississippi, was a mystery to him.  I was a strange anomaly in their lives, briefly entering their worlds with a youthfulness they weren’t used to. So I guess I bewildered as much as I charmed. This gave my research a new lightness - I wasn’t just recounting a musical history that musicologists like Alan Lomax, Paul Oliver and countless others had told, and to be honest told much better than I ever could. I was telling the story of blues in the way I knew how - from the perspective of a young, naive girl on her own absurd adventure. So I would occasionally exchange a day or two in the archive libraries, for a day drinking Whisky with ‘Birdsong’ in the plantation Commissary - maybe collecting stories, maybe not, but that was the chance I took.

In 2014 I went back to retrace my steps and cover new ground, this time driving 7,600 miles and finding some new characters to introduce into my book. Over another 90 days I reconnected with old faces, immersed myself in local scenes and got under the skin of black music deeper than I had before. In the time I'd been away from America, I learnt that three musicians I had interviewed, had died. Over the course of my trip, the St Louis riots erupted, Michael Brown had became a world reported story and the discourse on race and black lives was once again bruising America's image. By the time I'd come home our greatest living blues legend, B.B. king, had also passed, magnifying (at least in  my mind) just how poignant my trip was.

Of the hundreds of hours of recordings I made over those two trips, the thousands of photos, the hundred hours of videos I took, and the ninety-six interviews I conducted, the majority were instantaneous and unplanned. It was this unmethodical approach that gave the stories the same soul as the music that inspired them, and presented them with the same chaos as the lives of the people that told them. Each interview I conducted, each book I read, each microfilm I scrolled through or files I peered into, have a place in my story but with some of the key characters and bigger stories playing, for once, minor parts. Because this is not a retelling of the history of blues. My book is about my journey back to the beginning of modern music and is told in the same way I discovered it.

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ABOUT


This is my first book

ABOUT


This is my first book

TASH PESKIN

THE WRITER

Lover of blues, loser of everything I touch, misser of flights.

A Soft Place To Lay is my first book about my early trips across America. It is being published by Fourth Estate / Harper Collins in early 2018. 

MUDDY WATERS 

THE MASCOT

Muddy is a quite simply - a dog.

He shits, he eats, he eats his shit, then sleeps.

Muddy can't read. Or write. But I have a feeling he's a demon on guitar.