Blues makes a comeback -- We go through the resurgence of the Delta blues reissues

The blues are back — and everyone seems to love them. The new Bessie Smith reissue is the second major release in the Roots N’ Blues series from Columbia Records, which last year produced a surprise bestseller by the late Mississippi Delta blues great Robert Johnson. That boxed set, which has sold about 300,000 copies, is the most obvious sign of the current blues revival, but there are other triumphs as well. Since 1986 MCA has unearthed dozens of treasures recorded for the Chess label in Chicago, including a Muddy Waters ”best of” disc that’s sold some 200,000 copies. The curiosity value of historical recordings accounts partly for their success, says Andy McKaie of MCA, ”but I think if you scrape beneath the surface you find a very strong current of interest in the music.” Contemporary blues thrive as well, thanks to such best-sellers as Robert Cray. New labels like Point Blank, which signed guitarist Albert Collins, have joined such established companies as Black Top and Alligator. ”The appeal of this music is that it’s real American music for adults,” says Bruce Iglauer, president of Alligator Records. ”Exactly what makes you mad about Milli Vanilli is what makes you like the blues.”