Northeast Mississippi Hill Country Blues Pathfinder


This document will be of assistance in the initial research into the blues music traditions of the Northeast Mississippi hill country region, sometimes referred to as the “trance and drone” and “cotton patch” styles of blues that is distinct to the region. According to noted Blues scholar Sylvester W. Oliver, the specific geographic region that comprises the community are the six counties that are situated in the northeast corner of the state, these being Marshall, Benton, Tippet, Alcorn, Prentiss and Tishomingo counties. Additionally, the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) identifies 24 counties as being “Appalachian”, all of which are in the northeastern “hill country” region of MS, see attached list. While musical genres do not conform to geographical boundaries, the region’s music remains distinct.

The music of the Hill country has been heavily influenced by the “mountain” music of Appalachia and the African- American music that was created in the Memphis , TN area, as well as the blues from the Delta region of Mississippi . While these influences are present, the blues of the area is very much rooted in West-African musical traditions.

Music, the blues included, continues to thrive throughout the region, with many families, such as the Burnside, Hemphill and Kimbrough clans, having been musically active for five or more generations. While Northeast Mississippi hill country blues has not received a great deal of scholarly attention, there is a sufficient amount of resources available to the researcher within the Appalachian Library collections.

Introductory Text: 

Hay, Fred. Goin’ Back To Sweet Memphis : Conversations With The Blues. Athens : University of Georgia Press . 2001. See p. 113. ASU APP COLL STACK ML 394 H42.

Library of Congress Subject Headings: 
  • Blues Music
  • Blues Music History and Criticism
  • Blues Musicians
  • Blues Musicians United States Biography
  • Blues Music Appalachian Region
  • Mississippi
Clipping Files Subject Headings – W. L. Eury Appalachian Collection: 
  • Black Musicians
Library of Congress Call Numbers: 
  • ML 102
  • ML128
  • ML 156
  • ML 394
  • ML 3521
  • ML 3545
  • MT 146

Oliver, Paul. Blues Fell This Morning, The Meaning of the Blues. New York : Horizon Press. 1990 ASU MUSIC STACKS ML 3521.042

Conversation with the Blues . Cambridge , New York : Cambridge University Press. 2nd ed. 1997. ASU MUSIC STACKS ML 3521.0495

The Story of the Blues. London : Barris & Rockcliff 1969. 2nd ed. 1998. ASU MUSIC STACKS ML3521.046

Oliver, Sylvester W., Jr. African-American Music Traditions in Northeast Mississippi . Ph. D. diss., University of Memphis 1996. ASU APP COLL STACK ML 347 9.044 1996.

Palmer, Robert. Deep Blues . New York . Viking Press, 1981 UNCA GENERAL ML 3521.P34

Titon, Jeff Todd. Early Downhome Blues: A Musical and Cultural Analysis . Urbana : University of Illinois Press. 1977. 2nd ed. 1994. ASU MUSIC STACKS ML 3521.T58

Guides, Encyclopedias, and Dictionaries: 

Harris, Sheldon. Blues Who’s Who: A Biographical Dictionary of Blues Singers . New Rochelle , NY : Arlington House, 1979, repr. ed., 1989. ASU Music Reference: ML 102.B6H3

Herzhaft, Gerard. The Encyclopedia of Blues. 2nd Edition. Fayetteville : The University of Arkansas Press, 1997. ASU Music Reference: ML 102. H413.

Santelli, Robert. The Big Book of Blues: A Biographical Encyclopedia. New York , NY . Penguin, 2001. ASU Music Reference: ML 102. B6 S26 2001.


Ford, Robert. A Blues Bibliography: The International Literature of an Afro-American Music Genre. Kent , England . Paul Pellitier ASU Music Reference ML 128.B49 F67

Ferris, William R. Jr . Mississippi Black Folklore, a research bibliography and discography. Hattiesburg , University of Mississippi Press. 1971 ASU THESES/BIBLIO Z5984.M5 F43

Hart, Mary L. The blues: a bibliographical guide . New York : Garland Publishing Inc., 1989. ASU Music Reference: ML 128 B49 H3 1989.

Swzed, John. African American Folk Culture: An Annotated Bibliography Of Materials From North, Central and South America, and the West Indies . Philadelphia : Institute for the Study of Human Issues, 1978. WCU GENERAL GR 103.S95 pts. 1+2

Leadbitter, Mike. Blues records, 1943-1970: a selective discography. London , England : Record Information Services, 1984-1994. ASU MUSIC REFERENCE

Abstracts and Indices: 

Music Index online database accessible from ASU Library homepage

The International Index to Music Periodicals (IIMP) online database accessible from ASU Library homepage

RILM online database accessible from ASU Library homepage


Living Blues. Bimonthly. University of Mississippi : Living Blues Publications. ASU Music JRNL/BND 1999 No. 143-148, 2000 No. 149-154, 2001 No. 155-160.

Other Sources: 

Eagle, Bob. Geographical Directory of Black Appalachian Musicians . Black Music Research Journal. Publication Date: Summer 2004

Compiled by: 

Compiler: Jay Stevens, November 2003