2020 Blues Albums
Known as ‘The King of Slydeco,’ Mississippi-born, Louisiana-reared guitar legend Sonny Landreth is the rare blues musician who truly sounds like no one else. The style is instantly recognizable to his fans and likely to promptly convert those who aren’t yet fans.
As with any time-tested blues star, Landreth only grows in stature with each passing release. Blacktop Run is a much better album than it might have been years earlier. The songs that most attest to this are The high-octane ‘Groovy Goddess’ and the plaintive ‘Many Worlds.’
Robert Cray is a name and a sound well known to any true lover of the blues. Perhaps his most endearing quality for his fans is his resistance to change. In 2020, Robert Cray sounds as much like Robert Cray as he did in 1990. But the old adage of ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it applies very much to this legend. That brings us to his latest offering That’s What I Heard.
The Gospel-influenced ‘Burying Ground’ may be the album’s best track because it reminds listeners of how much of Cray’s signature sound is rooted in his deep, resonant voice. Meanwhile, ‘Hot’ refocuses the attention right back to Cray’s guitar playing as a scorching demonstration of his ability to set the fretboard ablaze. All told, That’s What I Heard is a top notch effort.
Marcus King and his band have a gritty quality that many younger players seem to lack when they enter the world of the blues. It also doesn’t hurt that the band’s leader (also its singer and chief songwriter) has the shredding skills that guitarists of all ages would understandably envy.
Picking standout tracks is tricky. Everything works to some degree, but King’s vocal chops are more vividly on display when things slow down as they do on ‘Wildflowers and Wine’ and the soulful ‘One Day She’s Here.’
Born in the unlikely city of Paris, France at a time (1965) when the blues seemed to be in commercial decline, Bernard Allison may not have been the blues hero we were expecting, but if his latest album is any indication, he’s on a mission to prove himself capable of the job.
Songs from the Road not only packs extraordinary power, but, as its title suggests, it demonstrates his ability to transfix a crowd with scorching funk-tinged blues. Verbally and lyrically, he bears a resemblance to Johnny ‘Guitar’ Watson and musically, he pays loving homage to a wide range of innovators. ‘You’re Gonna’ Need Me’ may be both the album’s funniest and saddest track. And the show-stopping closer ‘Slide Master’ makes the listener wonder what a joy it must be to check Allison out live. Songs from the Road will make a believer of you.
To anyone concerned with the current state of the blues, Whitney Shay’s latest release ‘Stand Up’ could have been delivered with you in mind. It contains the kind of raw, explosive power that any fan of the genre has come to expect, and in addition, it features a danceable bounce that will likely to appeal to fans more geared toward classic R & B. Altogether, Stand Up compares with the best work of the late Amy Winehouse.
The Album sizzles most when it charges at full-speed, keeping up with rock and soul, but never leaving the blues behind. ‘Boy Sit Down’ is very much a stand-out track with Change with the Time coming in a close second. If you’ve got a younger blues fan with birthday coming soon, Stand Up would make a lovely gift.