Soul Bag – The Best R&B Magazine In The World (FYI)
The historiography of African-American popular music is mainly in the hands of volunteers. And somehow, the appreciation for blues, rhythm & blues and soul music by these amateur specialists has always dominantly been a European thing.
Since the early 1960s France was without a doubt the market where Ray Charles was more popular and was taken more seriously than anywhere else in the world. Selling out theaters for weeks in a row. Giving the band an alibi for intensive tours through the country almost every year. Filmed, televized and radiobroadcast on a regular basis. Being covered and analyzed in the local music press – most notably by Le Jazz Hot – frequentlly.
Soul Bag is little known outside France. It’s a quarterly magazine published by the CLARB (Liaison Committee Lovers Rhythm & Blues), lead by chief editor Nicolas Teurnier. With the Swedish Jefferson Blues Magazine (also launched in 1968), Soul Bag holds the longevity record among magazines devoted to the genre. You can read more about the magazine’s history here.
Each new issue is not only a small productional miracle in itself, but also a huge delight because it looks and feels like a magazine from a big publishing house, and the best writers of Soul Bag combine a rare talent for story telling with an exceptional eye and respect for detail. Its regular contributors, all volunteers, are among the best specialists in this niche of music writing.
One of these writers is Joël Dufour, who has contributed to the liner notes of many re-releases of Ray Charles records, and whose writings and insights are also often quoted in this blog. Joël is not only an unsurpassed connaisseur of Ray Charles’ music, but also knows around and about everything there is to know about many of the great musicians and singers who have played and recorded with Ray through his career (cf. e.g. his marvelous article on Ernest Vantrease in a recent issue of Soul Bag!).