2021 Blues Albums
A selection of a few of the 2021 Blues Album releases features releases from the time-tested veterans, great stuff from the genre’s younger apprentices as well as a lovely dose of surprises.
If you have any doubts about the blues’ enduring power, these new releases can make a believer of you as it is through the blues that good old-fashioned musicianship lives.
As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.
Born in Brooklyn, New York and raised in Worcester, Mass, Joanna Connor may seem to lack the pedigree needed for a blues singer and guitarist. But a quick listen to her latest effort, 481 South Indian Avenue will likely persuade all doubters. The opening track, ‘Destination,’ roars to life like a lion after a week-long slumber, thanks in part to a sizzling backing band as well as co-lead vocalist Jimmy Hall. But overall, it’s an extraordinary start for a fairly ordinary album.
‘481’ does have its share of highlights. The chilling ‘Bad News’ features some of the tastiest and most haunting guitar work of the veteran blues performer’s career. And the stunningly upbeat “I Feel So Good” is about as life-affirming as the blues can get, but other songs drag a little and fail to match the album’s high points. 481 South Indiana Avenue is worth getting for a devoted follower of Connor, but others may want to stay clear.
Vocalist and harmonica player Curtis Salgado’s first full band album in four years packs a strong punch. It covers a great deal of emotional terrain, ranging from the plaintive, contemplative ballad ‘What Did Me in Did Me Well’ to the rollicking ‘Count of Three.’ Salgado is a blues artist not afraid to embrace the fun side of the genre.
Damage Control’s highlight might be the title track, a seemingly sedate tune that allows its warmth to ease up to the listener, heartwarming lyrics and all. Salgado’s latest album isn’t for those who seek blues with a rough, raw edge to it. This is a more mature effort, something to enjoy on the front porch while gazing at a glorious sunset. And who says the blues can’t be that too?
Not yet forty years old, guitarist and vocalist Selwyn Birchwood has a ways to go before finding the kind of maturity that makes for a blues legend. But Living in a Burning House suggests he’s on his way.
With his deeply soulful vocals and wide-ranging guitar skills, Birchwood has the basic talent needed to succeed in the blues and he also has the creative ambition. ‘You Can’t Steal my Shine’ is a funny and touching number that glides along nicely. And ‘Searching for my Tribe’ might be the album’s strongest song. Selwyn Birchwood is a sold blues talent, and if you don’t watch out, he may soon reach the heights promised by this fine effort.
17 year-old vocalist and pianist Veronica Lewis makes her debut with this highly charged effort that, at its very best, makes you wonder what the young Lewis will someday become when her gifts mature.
There’s no doubting Lewis’ vocal capacity and her prodigious range of piano skills. She has clearly listened to the greats of the genre and learned much from them. And yet,‘You Ain’t Unlucky’ falls a bit short. The album does have its bright spots — the upbeat dance track ‘Fool Me Twice’ above the rest, and even at its weakest, it is a finely crafted work of pop blues, but mostly Lewis’ first album feels like a promise to blues fans. ‘This girl will be great somebody,’ it screeches. But blues fan may be better off waiting until someday arrives.
Guitarist and vocalist Ally Venable’s newest album is a work of mixed results. Venable’s guitar chops are as impressive as any young instrumentalist of the blues world. And while, she’s undeniably a capable singer, the discerning blues fan can’t help but wonder how much Heart of Fire could have soared with a truly thunderous vocalist.
There’s no delicate way of putting it: Venable’s vocal’s are too thin and pretty to strike with the power they aim for. Her attempts to fuse blues and contemporary rock are admirable especially on ‘Hateful Blues’ and ‘What Do You Want from Me?’ But for all its six-string virtuosity, the album’s less-than-earth-shattering vocals leave the listener hungry for something with more bite.
Canadian bluesman Steve Strongman has a long history of backing up stars in the world of country, blues and rock. Tired of Talking displays his wide range of influences and, more importantly, his ability to combine them. ‘Just Ain’t Right,’ for example, takes a funk beat and fuses it with tasty blues licks and catchy pop melody. The result is the album’s second finest track.
The finest is ‘Can’t Have it all,’ a truly blazing dance number with some of the strongest harmonica playing heard in a while and Strongman’s characteristically sizzling guitar work. Overall, Tired of Talking runs the gamut, reminding any blues fan how many various forms the genre can morph into in hands — and vocal cords — as capable as Strongman’s.
Christone ‘Kingfish’ Ingram is fast becoming an answer to the question, where are all the great young blues guitarists? Possessing a fierce guitar tone and a truly soulful voice, Ingram borrows the best of the genre he’s inherited while adding enough contemporary touches to make it his own. Not an easy task for a man yet to see his 30-birthday.
Named after the area code of his Northern Mississippi home, his latest album boasts an impressive array of styles. Most impressive is the way he updates the blues, utilizing drum machines, hip-hop influenced lyrics and contemporary cultural references in a way that stands a good chance to appeal to a demographic thought too young to enjoy the blues. Upbeat blazers like ‘Not Gonna Lie,’ and mournful ballads like ‘you’re already gone’ demonstrate his range as well as his ability to make the blues as vital today as it has been in the past.
Gifted multi-instrumentalist bluesman Cedric Burnside is in his 40s, but has a grasp of the genre’s complex roots that would suggest a much earlier birthdate. The Memphis, Tennessee native has many tools in his arsenal, but what makes him stand out among contemporary blues singer/songwriters is his grasp of spiritual matters. He doesn’t forget the debt the blues owes to gospel.
Burnside’s fondness for weaving his faith into his music is most evident on the aching ‘Step in’ where he urges the almighty to enter the material world to remedy its broken ways. Another emotionally uplifting song that demonstrates his spirituality is ‘Love is the Key,’ a ballad and plea for forgiveness. Burnside isn’t as strong a vocalist as a songwriter and instrumentalist, but his relatively weak vocals do little harm to an otherwise solid album.
With a decades-long session guitarist’s background that includes stints in the worlds of pop, rock, jazz and the blues, you wouldn’t think Robben Ford would have much to prove at this point in his career. But his latest effort, ‘Pure’ sure sounds like it was made by somebody who needs to establish his blues bona fides. And in case you’re wondering, it achieves this in spades.
The album kicks off with a psychedelic-rock influenced title track that prepares us for the trippy ride to come. The ride’s highlights include the funky, fusion-based ‘Go’ and the heartfelt ‘Blues for Lonnie Johnson.’ If you’ve not yet experienced a Robben Ford album, ‘Pure’ is a good place to start. If you’re already initiated, ‘Pure’ is a good place to continue. Either way, Robben Ford’s latest album is a must-have.
Eric Bibb’s background as the child of jazz musicians involved in musical theater gives us a clue as to how his approach to the blues is nuanced and woven with genres not normally associated with his chosen path.
Bibb’s haunting, but ultimately hopeful portrait of a troubled nation is one of the year’s best blues albums. Standouts include the deeply poignant ‘Whole World’s Got the Blues’ and the title track, which reminds us that with all that has changed, the blues is still here with us.
Even if you don’t recognize the name Steve Cropper, you undoubtedly recognize his guitar’s blazing sound — at least you do if you have a love for classic R&B. As a key figure in the 60s and 70s music, Cropper’s latest album contains enough hard-hitting blues to remind us what the B in R&B stands for.
Fire it up might have been a stronger effort if he’d left the vocals to someone with a more expansive range, but this is Fire it Ups only major flaw. It pounds like thunder and shows a side of his playing that his previous work as a session musician only hinted at. Even if you don’t recognize the name Steve Cropper, you undoubtedly recognize his guitar’s blazing sound — at least you do if you have a love for classic R&B. As a key figure in the 60s and 70s music, Cropper’s latest album contains enough hard-hitting blues to remind us what the B in R&B stands for.
Guy Davis’ take on the blues can be safely identified as ‘traditional.’ At times, as we hear on the album’s opener ‘Badonkadonk Train,’ his tongue can be firmly planted in his cheek. While at other times, he’s stunningly sincere. The best example of the latter is the fatalistic and mournful ‘God’s Gonna Make things over.’
Davis is the son of the late legendary actors Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis and the bluesman has clearly inherited his parents’ sense of theatricality and it’s a quality that serves the album well. Davis has put together a strong — if occasionally overwrought — release.
With a throbbing beat and a sultry soprano, Samantha Fish is a likely candidate to find an outside with mainstream audiences outside of the world of the traditional blues. But don’t let her apparent crossover ambitions fool you. Faster is a fully satisfying blues album through and through.
The album gets off to a rollicking start with the title track ‘Faster.’ From there, things get heavier and funkier. The R&B number ‘Hypnotic’ is especially pleasing. Faster is the latest in a long line of Samantha Fish efforts that straddle the pop and blues wall in a way that could well satisfy fans of both genres.
The 2020 Ruf Blues Caravan was a tour that featured Ruf recording artists Whitney Shay, Jeremiah Johnson and Ryan Perry. If these names aren’t yet familiar to you as a blues fan, I’d recommend becoming familiar. And the best way to do so, is this album. Simply put, this is high-octane, live blues at its best.
Ryan Perry’s soulful vocals make the stirring ‘High Risk, High Reward’ a standout track, but the dance track ‘Stand Up’ is a strong runner-up.’ All three artists here distinguish themselves on this album and best of all, they provide a good reason for a blues fan to check out more of Ruf Records. An outstanding album by three artists any contemporary blues fan should get to know — if they don’t already.
Milwaukee-based quintet Altered Five Blues Band has all the basic ingredients to get any blues fan’s pulse pumping. Holler if You Hear Me is best described as the kind of blues you’d hear if you stumbled across a tiny midwestern juke joint in the forties or fifties. They give you blues with a fine combination of full-throated urgency and impeccable skill.
The ballad “Holding on with One Hand’ may be the album’s best, due in large part to frontman Jeff Taylor’s thundering baritone. The humorous ‘Where’s my Money?’ also stands out. Altered Five Blues Band may not be on the radar of every blues aficionado, but they should be, as Holler If You Hear Me amply demonstrates.
British-born Joanne Shaw Taylor has been called ‘The face of the blues,’ but her latest effort simply called ‘The Blues Album,’ is strong enough to send a blues fan’s focus closer to what she sounds like. And she sounds terrific.
A gifted singer/guitarist, Shaw has a way of keeping things simple when needed, as best demonstrated on the track ‘I Don’t Know What You Got.’ But she also has a knack for adding jazz-like embellishments when a track calls for it. The finest examples of this are found on the horn-heavy ‘Keep on Loving Me’ and the rhythmically complex ‘Scraps Vignette.’ Naming a release The Blues Album — as if no other has ever existed — may seem a little arrogant, but Taylor has the skill, and the gumption, to pull it off.
Southern rocker Tommy Castro’s latest effort boasts a title that suggests an epic tale of a traveler ready to face a challenge. ‘Bluesman’ certainly lives up to the challenge. From beginning to end, it’s a true scorcher.
‘Hustler’ features a funk and hip-hop influence that gives the tune extra bounce, but also retains a bluesy feel. But ‘Blues Prisoner' may be the album’s stunner. Castro’s guitar work has never sounded more searing. A Bluesman Came to Town is an extraordinary album. If you love the blues with a taste of southern rock, it is something not to be missed.
After decades of setting the rock world ablaze, Living Colour decided, on their first album in eight year, to focus on the blues, and the result is brilliant. By adding a harder edge than normally found in the blues,, the band hints at some boldly new directions for the genre. Some songs are more explicitly ‘bluesy’ than others, but they all sound like something that would have made Robert Johnson proud.
Their take on Notorious B.I.G. 's hip-hop classic ‘Who Shot Ya’ is a memorable effort and re-invention, but competition for standout track is fierce. ‘Who’s That’ captures the traditional blues better than any other song on Shade, but two covers — Preachin’ the Blues by Robert Johnson and Marvin Gaye’s ‘Inner City Blues’ provide ample evidence of the band’s diverse approach to the blues. Whether you’re a fan of the blues, rock or both, Shade has a lot to offer.
Late Irish Guitar god Gary Moore delivered his share of blues in his fifty-eight years. But it's a delight to see (and hear!) that the blues delivery didn’t end with his passing in 2011. This posthumous collection features the very best of Moore, which means it features the best of contemporary blues.
The album’s opener ‘I’m Tore Down’ starts us off on a raucous note, but things get better, and more intensely heartfelt as they go on. The title track is a soothing dose of blues balladry, and the chaotic rhythm, combined with spellbinding guitar of ‘Looking at your Picture’ make for another standout. How Blue Can you Get is a great way to recall the work of a key figure in the Blues.
Delta Kream is a fine example of a rock band ‘going back to the basics’ and delivering a strong showcase of blues in the process. By surrounding themselves with time-tested blues vets and keeping things simple, the Black Keys created an album they should be proud of.
As with many rock bands opting to ‘go back to the basics,’ Delta Kreme has its weaker moments. But the highs are dizzyingly high, and they more than compensate for the less compelling tracks. Their rendition of the traditional ‘Poor Boy a Long Way from Home’ may be the album’s strongest song. ‘Going Down South’ is also a stunner. The Delta Kream isn’t the blues at its best, but it’s fun to hear a veteran rock band try something new by tackling the old.
The country-tinged blues of Carolyn Wonderland is on vivid display on her latest effort, Tempting Fate. For those unfamiliar, Wonderland is a full-throated vocalist whose music is often filled with stunning slide guitar work.
‘Fortunate Few’ contains the album’s tastiest guitar work in addition to her most thoughtful lyrics. It is nearly as much a joy to listen to as the album’s closer, ‘Loser.’ It’s hard to find a singer/songwriter/musician more skilled at tugging the heartstrings. Carolyn Wonderland’s Tempting Fate is among the year’s best blues releases.
If Nashville native Adia Victoria’s name is unfamiliar to you as a blues fan, you’ve got some homework to do. She combines the very best of the blues with a taste of country bluegrass and her haunting voice has just the right flavor to make this album a treat.
‘Whole World Knows’ is the best illustration of her profound sense of spirituality, but as any blues fan knows, the genre is as much about worldly temptations and the haunting ‘Troubled Mind’ has that side covered as well. All in all, Adia Victoria’s latest release is a must-have for anyone interested in keeping up with the latest development in an age-old genre.
Formed in the mid-nineties, Gov’t Mule has established their following by delivering chicken-fried blues that stands with some of the very best of the sub-genre.
Heavy Load Blues, as its title would suggest, is no exercise in upbeat pop fun. It is world-weary, downbeat and, at times, dystopian ‘Ain’t no love in the heart of the City’ may be exemplify this mirthless tone, while the album’s dark closer ‘Black Horizon’ is no parade of laughs either. But ‘Horizon’ is undergirded by a deep, if unspoken, spirit that promises a better day. Heavy Load Blues isn’t the feel good hit of the year, but it leads to a catharsis that means much more.
Canadian blues rocker Colin James has spent much of his career flying under the radar of blues fans, but Open Road seems a likely candidate to change that. His earthy guitar skills come straight from the heart of the blues, searing us in exactly the way fans of the genre want to be seared.
The album’s title track shares the tale of an itinerant blues man, breaking and healing hearts one night at a time. The heartfelt tone that guides it suggests its story is highly personal if not strictly autobiographical.
Open Road’s other standout track, Bad Boy flirts with the possibility of a broken soul’s redemption. It is as unsettling and soul-stirring as it is playful and fun. Colin James knows the blues and if this is a genre you love, you should know Colin James and Open Road is a good place to start.
Minnesota-born Charlie Parr seems to be on a mission to introduce the world to roots-heavy blues, a sub-genre driven by the intimacy of acoustic fingerpicking and heartfelt lyrics. Last of the Better Days Ahead may just be the album that brings this mission to completion. Parr is a master of folk storytelling, taking us where we need to land in order to feel the blues where we need to feel.
‘Walking back from Wilmar’ returns us to a simplier world where a spinner of tales around a campfire regales his audience with a voice that is both exotic and familiar. Another track that hits the heart stunningly is ‘817 Oakland Avenue.’ Far from the mournful tune it initially comes across as, ‘817’ is a promise of hope and healing. Last of the Better Days Ahead is one of the year’s finest efforts by a blues performer you should get to know right away.
When blues fans speak of the genre’s international reach, they usually refer to The blues’ growing popularity in Europe. But it’s important not to lover look the West Indian Islands, and the Late Joseph Spence demonstrated the hauntingly raw result of the blues’ shift toward the Bahamas.
Encore will sound odd to those unfamiliar with the legendary guitar man’s work. Spence’s idiosyncratic phrasing is clunky and charmingly imprecise. But the listener gets the feeling that Spence wanted it just that way. The Spiritual classic ‘Down By the Riverside’ is rendered nearly unrecognizable, but it’s a true gem for that very reason.
Meanwhile, That Glad Reunion Day stands out as the most glorious and nakedly spiritual song on the album. If you love the blues and don’t know Spence’s work, Encore is an essential addition to your collection. It’s a rough ride, but if you survive it, you’ll love every note.
To the uninitiated, Eddie 9V’s surname stands for ‘nine volt’ a name that aptly describes his music. It is high voltage and endlessly energetic. The Atlanta-born singer/songwriter plays old school rhythm and blues with an emphasis on the blues. The songs on Little Black Flies are a rollicking collection of tunes that remind the listener of the past while somehow staying rooted in the present day. The best example of Eddie’s commitment to remaining fresh is 3AM Chicago, a rueful, yet somehow hopeful catalogue of the inner city’s woes.
Another strong track is the pensive ‘Back on my Feet.’ It’s not hard to picture the singer drowning in his troubling past while simultaneously preparing for yet another evening of mayhem. Like the album it appears on,’Back on my Feet’ captures every emotion that drives the blues — even when they contradict each other.
There’s not much preaching on Reverend Peyton’s latest effort, but in its own way it feels as genuinely spiritual as a baptism at a Mississippi revival. Driven by soulful guitar slides and gospel-tinged backup shouts, ‘Dance Songs for Hard Times delivers what its title promises. A good time help us through the bad times.
Dirty Hustlin’ may be the album’s strongest cut with its relentless vocals and unyielding lyrics. But ‘Hustlin’ gets strong competition from the album’s hard-driving closer ‘Come Down Angels.’ Regardless of the listener’s beliefs its hard not to moved by Reverend Peyton. Whether you add to the collection plate or not, you’ll be back for more.
With a rich history of providing vocals for a wide range of rock and blues artists ( from Big Mama Thornton to Jefferson Starship) a talent like Linda Imperial needs more than a five-track EP to fully explore her soul. But Heart Rock still manages to pack a great deal of punch in this brief gem.
“I Found Me’ is a well-crafted coming out that starts the EP off on a great note. The other standout track is the ‘The Storm is Over,’ a tale of survival Imperial probably could not have sung as a young woman. She means every word she croons.
While it’s tempting to steer the curious listener to some of Imperial’s complete albums, Heart Rock may serve an appetizer to those who’ve missed her so far. After a few nibbles, you may be ready for a full meal.
Hailing from the South Korea, Hanna PK’s blues pedigree couldn’t — superficially at least — be less bluesy. Upbringing aside, the young talent has seemingly done lots of catching up in the form of listening to and, playing the blues.
It would be false to suggest that Hanna could be mistaken for a full-throated barrelhouse Goddess. Ma Rainey she ain’t. But there’s no doubting the sincerity of her efforts. And it seems clear that, with enough time, this skilled youngster could well master the genre that has brought her to prominence. For now, Blues All Over My Shoes shows little mastery, but much promise, with its finest tracks being the mournful ‘Insomnia Blues’ and the reckless album opener ‘Mirror Mirror.’ It’s not clear if Hanna PK will someday catch up with her ambitions, but so far, it’s been fun and fascinating to hear her try.
After gaining fame as a pop singer in the 50s and 60s, erstwhile teen idol Dion has previously established his blues bona fides on 2020’s Blues with Friends. A year later, he’s back to the genre has that has given him a dramatic re-birth. And once again, he’s brought a number of talented friends along for the ride.
The results are as sizzling as Dion’s previous efforts — perhaps more. If anything the singer/songwriter sounds more comfortable in his new role and the material is better suited for him. Dancing Girl features Mark Knopfler and has a mystical quality that would be hard to imagine with any other combination of singer/guitarists. Meanwhile The Hendrix cover Red House (with Keb’ Mo’) takes us back in all the best ways. Dion seems enjoy the trip as much as the listener. The same can be said of the album as a whole. If you liked Blues with Friends, you’ll love this strong follow-up.
A veteran of the San Diego Blues scene for the last 30 years, Chickenbone Slim’s hard-slashing style is reminiscent of Johnny ‘Guitar’ Watson, while also owing a tremendous debt to good old-fashion swamp blues. Slim’s sound doesn’t demand to be taken seriously, but that’s precisely why it must be owned by any fan of the genre.
‘Ought to be loved’ could have come straight out of a 1950s street gang flick and ‘Crying Tonight’ was the song your great-grandfather kept hidden under his pillow. Serve it to me Hot is best served with a smile and a room full of friends who’ve had a few beers. Simply put, this is good-time blues, nothing more, nothing less. And somehow that seems just what the world needs right now.
Blues guitar queen Sue Foley could just as easily have been born in the Delta instead of Ottawa, Canada — if you listen to her pink-hued Telecaster. That’s because she’s learned all the right lessons from the genre’s guitar masters. She can craft a blues standard and make it sound just right with every slide, every bend, every flawlessly fingered chord. That’s the good news to be found on Pinky’s Blues.
The bad news is that Foley’s vocals don’t quite carry the same thunder as her stunning guitar work. She would have been better served leaving the singing in more capable hands.
But none of this stops Pinky’s Blues from having its captivating moments. The two biggest are the slow burn of ‘Say it’s Not So’ as well as the relentless shuffle of ‘Stop these Teardrops.’ All told, Pinky’s Blues come highly recommended — provided you focus your attention on her masterfully skilled fingers.
As a Member of Blackie and the Rodeo Kings, Colin Linden has delighted audiences with an intoxicating blend of alternative country. But with his solo material, Linden’s focus seems to be on delivering the unvarnished blues. And it’s hard to find an album that achieves that better than Blow.
The albums’s scorching opening, ‘4 Cars’ sets the tone just right. And as heartfelt as ‘Change Don’t Come Without Pain’ may be, Blow’s best songs are straight-ahead unfiltered blues shuffles. The best of that category is ‘Right Shoe Wrong Foot,’ a song that is impossible to hear without moving some part of your body. Colin Linden’s Blow is a strong effort from an artist who promises to only get stronger as the years go by.
The opening track on Sugar Hip Ya Ya from UK blues sensation Dionne Bennett is a cover of the Etta James’ classic ‘Tell Mama.’ The track may be an odd choice — unless it’s Bennett’s way of daring the blues world to compare her to the best of the genre’s past.
And if anybody has the brass to pull off such a move, it’s Bennett. But sometime brass isn’t enough. Dionne Bennett is a fine singer, but she’s not quite at the level to invite comparisons to legends. She may get there someday, but these things take time, experience and mileage.
For now, Sugar Hip Ya Ya, is a strong album. At its very best, it features a strong young talent reaching for the stars. Until she gets there, songs like the reggae-influenced ‘Let it Rain’ and the upbeat dance jam ‘Full Time Job’ will do.
Teresa James voice is a like a cup full of honey with just enough gasoline to remind you that’s she’s not to be tampered with. Her band the Rhythm Tramps provide just the right counterpoint for an evening of good time blues listening. This is music to be listened to with a flask of whiskey and a good friend.
The soulful ‘Things Ain’t Like That’ stands out as the best track. It makes the best showcase of its leader’s vocals and it’s just a raucous good time to sing along to. Another strong cut is the album’s closer ‘Gimme Some Skin,’ a mix of 60s pop and more recent bar blues. All in all, it packs the kind of substance that too much recent blues artists leave behind.
The Jon Spear Band has been declared by, among others, Blues Blast Magazine, the ultimate outfit when it comes to live performance. This kind of universal praise often raises the question: can this band duplicate their live energy on record? In the case of ‘B-side of my life,’ the answer is a resounding ‘yes.’
The blues rock combo sounds as dynamic and passionate here as they could in any live venue. Some songs rock harder than others, and ‘B-side’ contains a few out-and-out duds, but on the whole, there’s enough here to make you plan your next outing around the Jon Spear Band’s tour schedule. Strongest tracks include the vibrant title track and the searing ‘Darker Side.’
For anyone wondering where the genre of the blues is heading, Buffalo Nichols’ self-titled album may provide the answer. His vocals accompanied by a deeply evocative slide guitar is as vulnerable and tender as any blues singer in recent memory.
On the whole, ‘Buffalo Nichols’ is no upbeat affair, but this deep dive into the darker soul of the genre is all the more rewarding for its willingness to explore the darkness. This is not the feel good hit of the year, but you will feel every note just the same. ‘Living Hell’ may be the album’s most relentlessly downbeat song, but it’s also the most sincerely felt. ‘How to Love’ is a tale of a man determined to learn from his lost love, is a close second.
As the Blues grows more and more international, new names and voices emerge from unlikely places, steering the genre to the future. Hungary-born Little G. Weevil isn’t exactly a new voice, but his isn’t a name likely to pop up immediately when we think of contemporary blues starts. Live Acoustic Session may just change that.
Weevil’s resonant voice is best served on the soulful ‘Dad’s Story,’ while the truly sad ‘She Used to Call me Sugar’ offers the best demonstration of his guitar-picking skills. Live Acoustic Session is not to be missed. It’s one of the year’s best so far, and I expect it to remain on the short list for the remainder of 2022.
UK-born bluesman Mississippi Macdonald’s moniker may seem a bit odd when his place of birth is considered. But one listen to his music reveals how his name is earned. Simply put, he embodies the best of the Delta blues.
But Macdonald is no revivalist. He seeks to take the blues into the 21st century as fearlessly as anyone and Do Right Say Right offers the best case that he is, birthplace aside, just the right man for the job. A number of tracks stand out. ’Keep your hand out of my pocket’ is both cynical and funny, while ‘Drinker’s Blues’ finds a shred of hope in an otherwise bleak theme. All in all, this is a worthwhile effort with moments of sheer beauty.
The band formed by Susan Tedeschi and Derek Trucks are often cited as being among the best live outfits on the scene. What better way to confirm this status than recording a live album of songs written and/or recorded by Eric Clapton?
Everything here works as beautifully as you’d expect, but the biggest highlights are the lovingly extended ‘Layla’ and the despondent ‘Nobody Knows you When you’re down and Out.’ Truly one of the finest live albums in a while, Layla Revisited features a band stunningly in sync with each other and a pair of leaders whose voices and instruments weave themselves into a magnificent tapestry. Blues fans, miss this one at your peril!
Veteran Canadian Bluesman David Gogo serves up a nice sip of contemporary blues in his latest effort Silver Cup. The title is inspired by a family relic passed on to him by his nonagenarian grandmother. Whether by accident or design, Gogo has summed up the legacy of the blues. The genre is best understood as a time-honored tradition, passed on from generation to generation. But like any tradition, it must be rediscovered and reinvented by those to whom it is passed. It’s not clear what grandma thinks, but blues fans should be proud of what Gogo has done with his musical inheritance.
To be sure, other blues singer/songwriters have approached the genre with a more thunderous sense of passion, but Gogo’s laid-back stylings have an appeal of their own. This appeal is best felt on ‘Morning Light’ as well as the title track, which delights the listener with a heartfelt tale. Silver Cup may not be the cup of tea of those who prefer their blues with a little more grit, but it’s a fine effort nonetheless.
Blues fans are likely to have two immediate reactions to the latest effort by Thornnjorn Risager and the Black Tornado. One: The Danish bluesman’s backing band is aptly named. The opening track ‘If you Wanna Leave’ rips through a pair of headphones like a twister knifing through an Oklahoma trailer park. Two: Did this guy really learn to sing the blues in Denmark?
Too many roads is a strong release for a number of reasons, perhaps the best being that it keeps the listener wondering about where this powerful voice came from. By the album’s conclusion, it just doesn’t matter. All that matters is that this man can reach the blues and his band can offer him thunderous support on his way there. The wistful ‘China Gate’ may be the album’s best track. It’s hard to hear it without picturing the gifted vocalist alone on a dusty road sending his baritone into the wind.
Another resonant track is the molasses-slow ‘Through the Tears.’ Here Risager begs for companionship and consolation in a time of healing. If this isn’t the most cogent definition of the blues, the genre cannot be defined. A very solid release, by an artist no fan of the blues should ignore.