Friday, May 7, 2010

The Blues Music Awards, 2010 Edition

The Blues Music Awards were held last night in Memphis.  It's always a great few days of blues.  In addition to the ceremony itself, there's plenty of good music to be heard in all the nearby clubs by many of the nominees.  There's also usually a big jam session after the awards that's always a blast.  I was fortunate enough to go about ten years ago, but that year there was a big blues festival overseas and most of the nominees were playing at the festival.  I did get to see some great artists though, like Robert Lockwood Jr., Joe Louis Walker, Bernard Allison, Pinetop Perkins, Rod Piazza, and Kenny Wayne Shepherd.  I also got to see a number of artists who were in the audience, like Lil' Ed Williams, Pete Mayes, Johnny Jones, and Sam Carr.  However, a huge, somewhat embarrassing number of winners were not present to accept their awards, which was a shame.  In recent years, there have been some changes, including moving the show up a few weeks closer to the Memphis in May festivities, moving from its longtime home, the Orpheum, to Tunica one time and now to Cook Convention Center.  It's a fun weekend to mix and mingle with many of today's blues artists.

2010 Award winners can be found here.  The big winner of the night was Tommy Castro, who won four BMA's, including the B. B. King Entertainer of the Year Award, Band of the Year, Contemporary Male Blues Artist and Contemporary Blues Album.  Check out one of the nominees (for Best Album, Best Contemporary Blues Album, Contemporary Male Blues Artist, Best Instrumentalist - Guitar, and Best Song, whew!) and entertainers last night.  Joe Louis Walker's latest release, Between A Rock And The Blues, ranks with his best.  This is from Anthology in San Diego, just a few weeks ago......performing "Sugar Mama."  Congratulations to JLW for winning Album of the Year.

The Lifetime Achievement award was given to Buddy Guy this year.  Guy has done as much as anyone to bring new listeners to the blues over the years.  His guitar playing inspired numerous artists like Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck, who thankfully acknowledged their debt to him and other blues musicians over the years.  Guy has at times inspired and frustrated fans over the years, but there's no question he's been a positive force in the blues world for many years.  May he continue to be for many years to come.  Check out this clip from the 1970 movie, Chicago Blues, featuring Guy performing one of his classic tunes, "First Time I Met The Blues."  While the footage doesn't show very much of Guy's playing, the performance of the song is one of his best. 

There are several new inductees into the Blues Hall of Fame that were recently announced as well. The performers inducted are Lonnie Brooks, Charlie Musselwhite, Bonnie Raitt, the "Father of the Blues" W. C. Handy, Gus Cannon and Cannon's Jug Stompers, and Amos Milburn. Non-performers honored include author Peter Guralnick and longtime King Biscuit Time host Sonny Paine. Sam Charters' The Bluesmen is being honored as this year's Classic of Blues Literature.

There's a great set of songs and albums being honored as well.  All should be a part of any discerning blues fans' collection.  The songs being honored are "All Your Love (I Miss Loving)," by Otis Rush, "Fever," by Little Willie John, "Key To The Highway," by Big Bill Broonzy, "Match Box Blues," by Blind Lemon Jefferson, and "Spoonful," by Howlin' Wolf.  This year's albums are Strong Persuader, by the Robert Cray Band, Hung Down Head, by Lowell Fulson, and I Hear Some Blues Downstairs, by Fenton Robinson

This is a great set of music.  "All Your Love (I Miss Loving)" is one of Rush's many classic tunes, "Fever" has been covered by artists in all genres, as have "Key To The Highway," and "Match Box Blues."  "Spoonful" is actually a variation of an old Charley Patton tune (who was a major influence on Howlin' Wolf), but nobody can touch the Wolf's version.

Strong Persuader was a big factor in many current blues fans' entry into the blues world (including yours truly), but the other two album entries are uniformly excellent as well.  Robinson's release was his second for Alligator Records and is as good or better than his debutHung Down Head is actually a mini-greatest hits collection of Fulson's Chess output and, sorry, but I think they used the wrong take of "Tollin' Bells" as the single.

Here's a couple of the H.O.F. inductees in action....first, Bonnie Raitt performing the Sippie Wallace classic, "Women Be Wise" at Montreux in 1977.  Wallace wrote and recorded many standards in the 1920's and 30's and served as a mentor to Raitt. 

This is Lonnie Brooks, live at the Woodlands Blues Festival in 1993.  Brooks actually recorded as Guitar Junior in the 60's and enjoyed a couple of hits ("Family Rules," "The Crawl"), before signing with Alligator in the last 70's.  Brooks hasn't recorded an album since the late 1990's, but he's burned up the roads and airwaves touring over the past decade.  That's his son, Ronnie Baker Brooks, playing second guitar on this clip.  Lonnie Brooks is a combination of the best of the Louisiana swamp blues sound and the Chicago blues.  Nobody does it quite like him.

That's all for this week.  Next week, we'll look at some upcoming releases.

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