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R. Crumb’s Heroes of Blues, Jazz & Country
posted November 7, 2006


Creators: R. Crumb, Terry Zwigoff, Stephen Calt, David Jasen, Richard Nevins
Publishing Information: Harry N Abrams, Hardcover, 240 Pages, November 2006, $19.95
Ordering Numbers: 0810930862 (ISBN)

R. Crumb's Heroes of Blues, Jazz & Country is the first book I've looked at this year and immediately thought of Christmas, mostly because the combination book/CD format always seems to me to say "gift" and the relative small size of the physical product makes it perfectly suited to slip into adult stockings, if you're an adult-stockings family. A mitigating factor is that many comics fans may remember when this was book was published in another format as a few different sets of cards; I know I have one of the sets around here. As Terry Zwigoff explains in a lively and short introduction, the reason the cards were sold as sets was to give the music producer who was handling them a stand-alone object to increase their presence in the marketplace. This book seems like a natural extension to that impulse.

Whgat you get is 110-plus portraits of, as the title says, great musicians of the early 20th Century from blues, jazz and country. The jazz ones are mostly painted; the others are the kind of colored pen and ink portraits for which Crumb is rightly famous. The best portraits are of obscure artists; you can almost feel Crumb's approval of a lifestyle that allowed them to be forgotten, as well as his delight in getting to draw them here. While there are better Crumb art books, and Crumb comics that much better than the Crumb art books, with the CD in back and the descriptions for each act, R. Crumb's Heroes of Blues, Jazz & Countrycan obviously serve double-duty as a primer for someone wishing to explore that whole range of older recorded music.