On the Road with Dutch Mason: Prime Minister of the Blues


202 pages
Contains Photos
ISBN 1-55109-510-6
DDC 782.421643'092





Reviewed by Douglas Ivison

Douglas Ivison is an assistant professor of English at Lakehead
University in Thunder Bay.


Dutch Mason, blues guitarist, singer, and band leader, is an Atlantic
Canadian musical legend. The Dutch Mason Blues Band was one of the most
popular Canadian blues acts of the 1970s, performing its distinctly East
Coast blues in bars across Canada. After disbanding the band at the end
of that decade, Mason continued to perform over the years. His career
(and that of his band) was marked by heavy drinking, failed marriages,
ill health, and poor financial planning. Now using a wheelchair, Mason
continues to perform but is no longer able to play guitar.

On the Road with Dutch Mason is a strange hybrid of a book. It purports
to be a record of a recent 10-city tour of Eastern Canada by Mason and
his band, narrated by his fill-in harmonica player, David Bedford, a
political science professor and blues enthusiast. In fact, the tour is
an imaginary one, used by Bedford and his co-author, Harvey Sawler, to
give a structure to this otherwise rambling and rather shapeless book.
Sometimes clumsily, the book attempts to incorporate interviews with and
about Mason, focusing on Mason’s stories of life on the road, into a
tour-diary format. Interspersed with that is a fairly superficial
history of and commentary on the blues.

Unfortunately, the book isn’t very successful in any respect. We
learn little about Mason or his career. Rather than giving us real
insight into the man, or providing us with an analysis of his music and
career, the authors celebrate his eccentricities. In fact, they never
really overcome their star-struck hero-worship of Mason. Nor does their
book provide us with any real insight into the blues: it fails to do
more than repeat truisms such as the silly claim that blues music is
more authentic than other forms of popular music or that blues musicians
are truth tellers.

Ultimately, On the Road with Dutch Mason presents us with little more
than an idealized and romanticized view of the blues and the blues life
from the perspective of middle-aged, middle-class academics.


Bedford, David, and Harvey Sawler., “On the Road with Dutch Mason: Prime Minister of the Blues,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 19, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/15486.