Daphne A. Brooks

Daphne A. Brooks is the author of Bodies in Dissent: Spectacular Performances of Race and Freedom, 1850-1910 (Durham, NC: Duke UP), winner of The Errol Hill Award for Outstanding Scholarship on African American Performance from ASTR and Jeff Buckley’s Grace (New York: Continuum, 2005). Brooks has authored numerous articles on race, gender, performance and popular music culture and is currently working on a book entitled Subterranean Blues: Black Women Sound Modernity (Harvard University Press, forthcoming).

“See My Face From the Other Side”: Catching Up with Geeshie and L.V.”
 Geeshie Wiley and L.V. Thomas, though part of a rich tradition of female blues musicians and lyricists, were unusual in that they were women who sang and played guitar together—and not solo—during a moment in their respective, historically evanescent lives when they hovered between falling vulnerable to varying forms of violence at the hands of the state and domestic patriarchs. Their recordings offer us the richest trove of untapped, overlooked, and undervalued historical and cultural knowledge about the black queer blues woman’s archive of the everyday—that which is lost, that which we may never fully recuperate, that which begs us to listen differently to and reimagine the scope and range of blues women’s aesthetics altogether.

The songs that this mysterious duet put down for the record at Paramount, on the one hand, evoke the most familiar elements of the genre—tropes of longing and dissolution, bold flirtation, lust and braggadocio, as well as danger and intimate combat, the full compendium of blues feeling. It is music that reflects the country and classic blues
traditions out of which these women came, while also reminding us of just how “backwards”—in Heather Love’s queer theorist sense of that word—Wiley and Thomas’ archive actually is, and likewise, how much queerness and the blues commingle with each other in constituting the aesthetics of their repertoire.