The New Blackwell Guide to Recorded Blues. Blackwell. Dec. 1996. c.448p. permanent paper. ed. by John Cowley & Paul Oliver. index. LC 96-12140. ISBN 0-631-20163-7. $49.95; pap. ISBN 0-631-19639-0. $19.95. Blackwell has distinguished itself as a publisher of music guides, and its latest offering upholds the high standards set by previous ones, including the blues guide (The Blackwell Guide to Blues Records, LJ 12/89) updated here. As is generally true of Blackwell guides, the coverage is selective rather than exhaustive; in this case, the book consists of 11 discographical essays, each covering a period in blues history and recommending around 50 recordings as either "essential" or "basic" to a blues library. The essays are consistently well written and extremely informative. More that simply guiding the reader to good blues recordings, they also provide a remarkably thorough overview of the history and development of specific artists and styles. Each citation includes a catalog number and complete track list. A number of the recordings cited are UK-only releases, which limits somewhat the guide's usefulness to American readers. Still, this guide should find a place in most academic music collections. (Index not seen.) Where the Blackwell guide offers impressive depth, the All Music guide offers impressive breadth. Those familiar with the "All Music Guide" series know exactly what to expect here: a huge number of brief reviews and artist biographies covering almost every blues artist one can think of, as well as several useful appendixes on instrumental and regional styles and numerous charts illustrating webs of influence among artists and the connections among blues subgenres. As is also generally the case with All Music guides, the rating system is so ambiguous as to be almost meaningless, and the writing is uneven in quality. Not all research collections will need it, but this guide can be confidently recommended as a resource for the nonspecialist reader.-Rick Anderson, Penacook, N.H.