"The core of the blues is emotional honesty," says Peter Guralnick, author of Searching for Robert Johnson and a definitive two-volume biography of Elvis Presley, Last Train to Memphis and Careless Love. "It reflects honestly and directly the emotional condition of the moment. That may be celebration, it may be utter dejection, but it gives you what the person is feeling."
Seconding that notion, producer Alex Gibney says the blues' emotional intensity makes it a needed counterpoint to much of the dance-machine fluff crowding the airwaves.
"In an era when so much music is manufactured, the blues provides an important tonic because it feels so true, so raw, so immediate," Gibney says. "It's not always PC, and it often connects with the way we are rather than the way we imagine ourselves to be. But you gotta sing about that, you gotta get that. Otherwise, as Freud once said, the repressed always comes back to haunt the repressor."