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Hero. Legend. Good Bloke.
John Peel OBE, 1939 - 2004

Red Lick Records



In Search of Blind Willie McTell
Michael Gray

The Observer

“[An] assiduous work of reclamation… Gray’s wonderful book, part travelogue, part musical journey, part social history, is painstakingly researched and frequently illuminating. It brings to light not just an elusive artist but a lost world… Finally, we have a life to go with the legend.”

The Guardian

Hand Me My Travelin’ Shoes is a wonderful book about a spellbinding musician.”

The Times [July 14, 2007]

“Gray’s fitness over a long distance enables him to set his present subject deep in the complexities of the society that engendered him… This is the fullest account yet of McTell’s 59-year life, a hybrid of social history and travelogue – Gray’s as much as his subject’s.”

Metro [July 2007]

“Non-Fiction Of The Week.  **** Gray has a journalist’s eye for detail… [and] a music lover’s poetic appreciation  for a great craftsman largely forgotten by history. A wonderfully tantalising picture…”

Mojo [Aug 2007]

* * * *  ”


“He inspired one of Bob Dylan’s greatest songs and is now the subject of Michael Gray’s fascinating biographical profile Hand Me My Travelin’ Shoes: In Search Of Blind Willie McTell :
Bloomsbury * * * * *.

Gray, the author of titanic tomes on Dylan, is a fastidious researcher and here presents not just an authoritative portrait of the great bluesman, but also vivid history of the South in general and the area of rural Georgia that was mostly home to McTell, with an especially vivid account of the Civil War and the shaping consequences of the reconstruction of the South that followed. Gray is also a sharply observant travel writer and some of the book’s best writing is devoted to brilliantly evocative descriptions of the backwaters he visits and the people he meets.” 

The Informer

“Acclaimed Bob Dylan critic Michael Gray turns his attention to a blues master in his latest book - with wonderful results. Hand Me My Travelin’ Shoes is set to become the standard work on the charismatic twelve-string guitar player and singer… Stretching back and forth, from the bloody battles of the American Civil War to McTell’s final days, the book is distinguished by an unfailing attention to detail  -  often in the face of scant or non-existent records and census returns  -  and a stylish prose which rescues McTell from the shadows of cultural history.

…the book is also a hymn to McTell’s native Georgia. Gray traces the routes the blind singer would have followed, in and around his native Thomson. Catching a bus from Atlanta with the author, the reader takes in the sights, sounds and smells of McTell’s luxurious but also chaotic home state...

Gray’s book is fired by an admiration for McTell’s personal and musical spirit, which failed to be vanquished by time and circumstances… To risk a cliche, Michael Gray’s book is a labour of love. But it is also a history of the cultural landscape which produced the great blues singer … [and] will appeal not only to blues devotees, but to anyone interested in a musical detective story and the amazing resilience of the human and artisitic spirit.” 

The Dylan Daily

“Michael Gray’s new biography of country blues legend Blind Willie McTell, published last Monday in the UK, is already widely available on the High Street: by the weekend, it was prominently displayed in all of the London bookshops I happened to visit.

It’s a beautiful artifact, and most Dylan fans will feel compelled to check it out. The new issue of Uncut, the music and movies monthly, gives it a five star review – ‘fascinating… authoritative… vivid…’. Another triumph for the prolific Gray, then.”

HAND ME MY TRAVELIN' SHOES: In Search of Blind Willie McTell from Bloomsbury, London. (ISBN: 0 7475 6560 0; ISBN-13: 978-0747565604.)
448 pages.  Hardback 1st Edition.  Retail price: £25.

Paperback Edition available from all good booksellers.
ISBN: 9780747565611
448 pages. 

Check out a new series of talks by Michael Gray in the USA:
"Searching for Willie McTell: A British Writer in Georgia"              

Check out Michael Gray on Blind Willie McTell on YouTube

Check out Michael's essays:
Ghost Trains of the Mississippi
An Introduction to Bob Dylan's use of Pre-war Blues

Text (this page) © Copyright 2007 The Observer, The Guardian, The Times, Metro, Mojo, Uncut, The Informer and Dylan Daily. All Rights Reserved.
Website © Copyright 2000-2009 Alan White. All Rights Reserved.
For the latest information, email Alan White at: alan.white@earlyblues.com