I love how the book starts with the 12-year-old Val walking into the Swing Shop, in Streatham, south London, asking if they have any jazz records. This pivotal moment is the catalyst for a very personal revolution, and the way that jazz and blues music shaped Val's life is put across really powerfully. Now, I hope, we recognise her as an incredibly important photographer and writer, and one of the journalistic highlights of the past year has been Val's illustrated essay for The Wire on Fela in London.
Val has popped up in the back pages of YHO a number of times, particularly in the Enlightenment! edition. In the A Belief in Mischief issue she is mentioned specifically because her book was a huge factor in getting me to listen to blues music. She makes the blues seem warm, human and alive rather than the more typical journalistic approach where the blues becomes shorthand for some dreary, dusty authenticity. And this is the way I like the blues ...
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