2022 Blues Albums

2022 Bles Albums

As a Blues fan you will know that new album releases are always worth checking out. Here's a roundup of some of the best new blues albums that have been released in 2022 so far. Whether you're into traditional blues or more modern sounds, there's something here for everyone!

EDGAR WINTERS - BROTHER JOHNNY

Edgar Winters’ all-star tribute to his brother Johnny is a roller coaster of an experience, reminding the listener of Johnny Winters’ contributions to the music world while featuring a dazzling display of talents.

Both Winters brothers have spent their lives living and playing a glorious collision of southern blues and guitar heavy rock and roll, so it should surprise no one to learn that Edgar’s homage to Johnny would rock so hard while also packing the unfiltered punch of the blues.

It’s interesting that on this collection of mostly high-octane rock screamers that the best track is the back to the basic Blues track Lone Star Blues featuring legend Keb’ Mo.’ But there are other songs of note here that are just as deserving of praise. Michael MacDonald’s earthy vocals on Stranger are as fine as the pop singer has ever recorded. Meanwhile Joe Bonamassa acquits himself magnificently on two stellar tracks, ‘Mean Town Blues’ and ‘Self Destructive Blues.’

Brother Johnny is a truly explosive tribute to a highly impactful blues rocker who spent much of his life creating truly explosive works himself. If you like your blues with a little fire in the tank, this is an album you simply must own.

ROBIN TROWER - NO MORE WORLDS TO CONQUER

Even before the music of 76 year-old Robin Trower’s latest effort begins, the title provokes curiosity. Does Trower himself feel he has no more worlds to conquer? Has he grown bored with his place in the world of the blues?

The music itself puts those nagging questions to rest quickly. Even as he closes in on his eightieth birthday, Trower sounds as vibrant and passionate as ever — which is saying quite a lot given his impressive body of work.

The gentle ‘Birdsong’ might be the album’s best track. The way it sways in the breeze created by his backing band is a lesson in subtle voicing that should be taught to any young apprentice in the genre. On the other end of the spectrum of intensity is ‘The Razor’s Edge.’ The track begins with a blazing lick from the master and never fades. It demonstrates without flaw how, in the hands of a guitar whiz, a few well-chosen notes can impact the listener in ways the finger gymnastics of some simply cannot.

Trower may not have any more roads to conquer, but he doesn’t need any. As long as he keeps conquering Bluesworld again and again, his brilliance will be warmly received.

GINA SICILIA - UNCHANGE

Native Pennsylvanian Gina Sicillia has slowly climbed her way into the hearts of Blues fans, having shared the stage with such leading lights as Beth Hart, Shemekia Copeland and Joe Bonamassa. If you’re still unfamiliar, Unchange is just the excuse you need to seek her out and savor her unforgettable voice.

The simmering tone on the opening track ‘Healing Time’ sets the tone flawlessly. Not only does it showcase her deeply soulful voice, it demonstrates her subtle voicing. Unlike many singers of the genre who are determined to out-sing their songs, Gina knows how to let shifts in cadence work for her. There are even moments when she lets silence do the talking.

Another stunning work is ‘Valentine,’ which serves double duty both as a confessional and a love song. Once again, Gina’s vocals are the engine that drives the track. Little accompaniment is needed to make the song memorable and lush.

Unchange is a gorgeous album by a soulful blues singer whose voice demands attention. If you succumb to that demand, you’ll be richly rewarded by an introduction to a voice you’ve been ignoring for far too long.

DANA FUCHS - BORROWED TIME

With a rough-hewn voice straight from a bottle of Tanqueray, Florida native Dana Fuchs is the kind of vocalist that no fan of the blues has an excuse to be unfamiliar with.  Her latest effort Borrowed time embeds her rich vocal tones in a garden of crunchy southern rock. And it’s right where she belongs.

The ominous tone of ‘Blue Mist Road’ provides exactly the ideal setting for her as she amply demonstrates the Blues’s capacity for poetic storytelling. It’s a song in which nothing actually happens, but somehow, everything unfolds.

Another outstanding track is the heartbreaking ‘Nothing You Own.’ It’s a tasteful fusing of blues and country that reminds the listener how beautifully these two genres can blend when guided by a superior voice.

Fuchs, for all her raw power, has a fairly limited range as a singer and that’s why her skilled backing band deserves a shout-out for making Borrowed Time such an experience in blues excellence. It is not to be missed.

RONNIE EARL AND THE BROADCASTERS - MERCY ME

Well-traveled Blues stalwart, Ronnie Earl’s latest effort ranks among his career highlights. Backed by a remarkable collection of gifted partners in crime — many of whom boast an impressive resume in their own right — Earl’s work here is even more tasty than usual as he combines slow-burning moody tracks with songs that contain enough raw intensity to make you wonder if this Queens, New York native was switched at birth with someone whose roots are much closer to the Mississippi Delta.

For all the breathtaking originality of Earl’s approach to the Blues, it must be admitted that the album’s two standout tracks are covers. Jackie Wilson’s (You Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher gets a tremendous jolt from aptly named vocalist Diane Blue.

But Ronnie Earl’s cover of John Coltrane’s classic Alabama is something else entirely. With its unexpected combination of haunting piano, jaunty drums and brilliantly restrained guitar work, the tune seems to be a defiant reply to anyone who doubts if the genres of jazz and the blues can play nicely together. It is no exaggeration to describe it as a classic of both genres.

All together, Ronnie Earl’s teaming with the Broadcasters gives us one of the young year’s best blues albums. Missing it would truly give any of the genre’s fans the blues.

LARRY MCCRAY - BLUES WITHOUT YOU

Unheralded blues guitar veteran Larry McCray has the kind of chops that make any fan unfamiliar with him wonder why it has taken so long to get acquainted. He has the strong guitar chops and the ferocious growl of a man who has learned all the right lessons from all the right legends.

Not surprising since he’s had the honor of meeting and playing with a number of the genre’s luminaries, including the three Kings, B.B, Albert and Freddie.

‘Down to the Bottom’ is far and away the album’s most distinguished track. It’s heartfelt and mournful without falling into sentimentality, featuring reflections on the past and the present. Best of all, its attack balances healthy doses of McCray’s vocals and guitar. It may be the most powerful blues song of the young year.

Another of the album’s standouts is the instrumental ‘Roadhouse Blues.’ Here, the master’s guitar takes center stage and the result is a searing collection of notes that rattle the soul the way any good blues song – with or without vocals – should.

Blues Without You is the kind of release a newer fan should get to know, if only to learn the basic blueprint of the genre. McCray takes us through every imaginable emotion and he does it in style. This is a truly masterful effort.

NORTH MISSISSIPPI ALLSTARS - SET SAIL

The sailing done by the North Mississippi Allstars could hardly be considered an expedition through uncharted waters. This four-piece country blues outfit plays straight-ahead contemporary blues with a strong lean into the genre’s well-trodden past. But the old saying ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,’ seems to apply here. And the last time anyone with ears to hear has checked, the blues ain’t broken. 
 
If the Allstars lack anything, it’s a powerhouse vocalist to provide the kind of raw edge typically found in the most memorable of blues combos. So it makes sense that the album's best tracks would be those whose enjoyment hinges least on the vocals. On Set Sail, that means the dance-happy ‘Juicy Juice’ stands out the most in spite of its underwhelming singing. But there’s also the album’s closer, ‘Authentic.’

Here the band drifts away from typical blues fare and injects contemporary social commentary into the mix. Getting a refreshing take on current events in a genre mostly thought of as antiquated is as enjoyable as it is surprising.

On the whole, there’s not much here that will catch the average blues fan off guard, but that’s okay. Less okay are the substandard vocals. Set Sail is a decent, but far from extraordinary take on the blues. Discriminating fans waiting for the next classic may want to keep waiting. 

SON HOUSE - FOREVER ON MY MIND

Son House is a name any dedicated blues fan knows well. The highly expressive slide guitar master may be long gone, but his sound lives on in the hearts of his many fans and on the fingertips of his proteges. For his army of fans, this collection of previously unreleased material may provoke the question “Do I really need to add another Son House record to my blues collection?”

The answer is a decisive maybe. For a newer fan of the blues who has yet to discover the joy of Son House’s music, Forever on My Mind is a great place to start. The records are of great quality considering the age and the flaws in the initial records. Additionally, the choices here are great. ‘Louise McGhee’ showcases House’s plaintive voice and, perhaps better than any other song in his catalog, illustrates his ability to combine gritty, genuine vocals with tasty guitar work.

Another excellent inclusion is ‘Levee Camp Moan,’ a salient reminder of how the blues was built on the backs of hard-working men who wanted nothing more than a small taste of dignity.

The listener already boasting an expansive library of Son House’s music can make up their own mind about the need to add another to the stack, but for the new blues enthusiast, the verdict is easy: Forever on My Mind is a must have.

HOROJO TRIO - SET THE RECORD

When it comes to overpowering, rock-tinged blues, it’s hard to think of a more thunderous sounding trio than these three Canadians.

Guided by the steady and strong vocals of Jeff Rogers and JW Jones, Set the Record is a joy from its first track to its last, combining the harmonic and melodic intricacies of pop/R&B with the raw propulsion of the blues.

 The album’s opening track, ‘Man of Steel’ may be its best — or at least its most potent. It kicks the party off with just the right kind of mood, threading self-effacing humor into an otherwise steamroller of a track.

 Another big winner here is the rhythmically complex and lyrically deft ‘Something You Should Know About Me.’ In total, Set the Record is probably better appreciated by fans who like a little (or a lot) of mainstream rock in their blues.

Purists would be better off staying away. But if loud and intense are words to describe your taste in the genre, welcome to your favorite album of the year — so far. 

PASTOR CHAMPION - I JUST WANT TO BE A GOOD MAN

The impact of gospel music on the blues is a debt that has never been fully repaid — or acknowledged by fans of the genre. But thankfully, an album like I just Want to Be a Good Man, makes the connection of genres clear.

The story behind the album is a sad one. It is a tribute to a septuagenarian gospel artist Pastor Wylie Champion, who passed away in the midst of releasing his first record. His wife Mother Champion died a few months earlier.

For all the tragedy undergirding this effort, the overwhelming emotion that fuels it is one of release. The album’s best tracks remind us of the blues’ capacity for catharsis. No track serves this purpose better than the aching ‘Storm of Life (Stand by Me)’ Another standout song is the ever-optimistic ‘He’ll Make a Way.’

Pastor Champion’s album may embody an unfinished legacy, but as long as the genres of gospel and Blues carry on, his songs will never be incomplete.

THE SULLY BAND - LET’S STRAIGHTEN IT OUT!

If you’re starting out 2022, seeking a demonstration in how vibrant and alive the blues can sound when paired with robust R&B horns and a throbbing rhythm section, The Sully Band’s latest effort is very much for you. While it owes more to 60s pop/R&B than to the blues proper, its blues roots are always showing — even when they seem to drift far afield of the genre.

The best example of the blues adding gritty spice to an otherwise pop-influenced playlist occurs on the stripped-down cover of Jackie Wilson’s ‘Higher and Higher.’ Where the original is draped in heavy instrumentation on top of Wilson’s larger than life soars and swoons, this version keeps things soft and slow, taking a delightful detour through the blues before getting where it needs to go.

Much the same could be said of the Temptations cover ‘I Wish it Would Rain.’ Sully (yes, that’s the leader’s name) doesn’t have the vocal chops to compete with Motown’s crooner David Ruffin, but a soulful harmonica solo helps us forget this. Overall, Let’s Straighten it out would be a strong addition to the collection of any fan of the blues – and even more so to a fan of rhythm and blues.

KATIE HENRY - ON MY WAY

Multi-instrumentalist New Jersey blues rocker Katie Henry offers an energetic album that showcases her versatile skills on vocals and just about every other instrument. Although not a debut album, this impressive effort from an artist who has flown beneath the radar of many blues aficionados could soon turn out to be her coming out party. All-in-all, On My Way, is best described as a trip to the Mississippi Delta with a short stop through Nashville. 

There is much to like here, but the country-tinged ‘Without a Fight’ may well stand out as the best track of the album. Her voice is warm, open, charming  and well-suited for the accompanying steel guitars and soaring melody. On top of everything else, twang is not her enemy. ‘Catch me if you can’ is another enjoyable song that finds the bandleader in a comfortably country mood. It’s tempting to wonder if Henry might be more naturally inclined to the country side of things because she sounds so at home in the genre (New Jersey upbringing aside). Still, On My Way would be a great introduction to the performer to those who have yet to discover her, regardless of their favorite genre. 

BERNARD ALLISON - HIGHS AND LOWS

With so much contemporary blues sounding sterile and lifeless, it is easy to forget how dangerous, edgy and funky the genre that once belonged to Muddy Waters and Robert Johnson used to be. Thankfully, Bernard Allison is on a mission to remind us of the genre’s early roots with his latest album Highs and Lows.

As the son of blues star Luther Allison, Bernard must have learned and inherited much of the genre in childhood. And his dazzling DNA is on vivid display here, most stunningly on the mournful ‘Strain on the Heart.’ On both his vocals and his fretwork, Allison sounds like an exhausted lover who can’t give anymore or take anymore. It’s the kind of song that the blues was seemingly invented to highlight.

Another outstanding track is the slow-shuffling ‘Side Step.’ His tasty multi-tracked guitar work rivets the listener in both channels while serving as a demonstration of everything fans of the blues adore. It wouldn’t be surprising to see Bernard Allison eventually mature into one of the very best of his type, a stylish guitar whiz with gritty vocals to match. Highs and Lows is a truly superior effort.

BOB STROGER AND THE HEADCUTTERS — THAT’S MY NAME

On paper, the combination that made this album possible seems like a science-fiction pairing.  A journeyman belter of the blues nearing his tenth decade of life  joins forces with a Brazilian blues band? And yet, not only are the results enjoyable, they are remarkably organic. Simply put, Stroger’s soulful vocal delivery make you wonder what took so long for these two forces to connect.

After a lifetime of teaming up with blues legends such as Snooky Pryor, Otis Rush and Jimmy Rogers, Stroger sounds delighted to take center stage. Never does he sound more thrilled than on the blues standard C.C. Rider. It’s a song he’s probably heard and performed thousands of times, but it somehow sounds as fresh as a newly minted composition.

Another joy to behold is the upbeat dance shuffle ‘Keep Your Hands off Her,’ especially when Stroger’s vocals drop to a menacing growl. It’s safe to say that the blues singer, now past ninety, has seen better days in terms of technical delivery, but to anyone who believes the blues is about technique, Stroger is happy to remind you how much sheer grit and heart matter. That’s my Name is a strong album, with or without technical mastery.

KENNY ‘BLUES BOSS’ WAYNE - BLUES FROM CHICAGO TO PARIS

To the blues fan who is just beginning to gain a familiarity with the genre, Kenny ‘Blues Boss’ Wayne’s tribute to Memphis Slim and Willie Dixon would serve as a magnificent opening chapter into the history of the blues. More specifically, it would help document the moment the Delta blues took a trip to Chicago and discovered electricity.

Choosing standout tracks is a fool’s errand, but a good place to start would be ‘Reno Blues’ with its boogie-woogie shuffle and hilariously delivered lyrics. Like so many iconic tracks of its kind, it is an unhappy tale of love-gone amusingly awry that somehow places a smile on the listener.

‘Messing round (with the blues)’ also hits the heart in a stunning way. No jokes here, just a sad man tickling the piano keys with his soul. Altogether, Blues from Chicago to Paris is a remarkable effort that belongs in the collection of anyone who dares call themselves a fan of the blues.