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The middle of summer is when the surprises in publishing turn up. I'm talking about those quietly commanding books that publishers tend to put out now, because fall and winter are focused on big books by established authors. Which brings us to The Dream Life of Astronauts, by Patrick Ryan, a very funny and touching collection of nine short stories that take place in the 1960s and '70s around Cape Canaveral, Fla.

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Robert Belfour: Live In Concert

Feb 22, 2013
Originally published on June 23, 2014 9:56 am

The 74-year-old Mississippi blues guitarist Robert Belfour possesses a deep, earthy tone which makes his live performances enthralling and compelling. Belfour has been playing since childhood in the Mississippi hill country around Red Banks (just south of Memphis, Tenn.), where he picked up his father's guitar and learned to play. When his father died, the burden of supporting the family fell largely on the 13-year-old. He went into construction work in Memphis, playing blues on the side when there was time.

Belfour was discovered by "blues professor" Dr. David Evans, who included him on the anthology The Spirit Lives On — Deep South Country Blues and Spirituals in 1994 for a German label, Hit Fox Records. That's a hard CD to find these days, though Belfour's two records on the Fat Possum label remain in print. Belfour often plays chord-melody accompaniment — that is, he plays the melody lines along with harmonizing chords all at once.

In this concert, recorded live at Philadelphia's World Cafe Live on Feb. 15, Belfour plays some of his originals, such as "Pushin' My Luck," as well as some hill-country favorites like "Old Black Mattie," plus the ever-popular "Catfish Blues" and a couple of John Lee Hooker songs, including "Boogie Chillen'." At 74, Belfour remains a passionate blues communicator, as this show amply demonstrates.

The Mississippi Blues Project is supported by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage through the Philadelphia Music Project.

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