This week, Friday Blues Fix presents our Top Twenty new blues albums of 2014. This was a great year for new releases and it was EXTREMELY difficult to narrow it down to that number. There were 150 new releases that I got to hear this year and nearly all of them were top notch. I receive most of them for review at Blues Bytes and in the upcoming January issue, all of the reviewers' Top Ten will be listed. Today's FBF post will feature my twenty favorites (in no particular order) and, if you are interested, you can check Blues Bytes in a week or so to see which of mine (and the other reviewers') made the Top Ten.
Friday Blues Fix's Top 20 Blues Releases for 2014
Linsey Alexander - Come Back Baby (Delmark): Guitarist Alexander provides the perfect mix of Chicago-styled soul and blues.
Daddy Mack Blues Band - Blues Central (Inside Sounds): This band never lets me down when I'm looking for greasy, funky Memphis blues.
The Knickerbocker All-Stars - Open Mic at the Knick (JP Cadillac Records): This is a fun release featuring various former and current members of the Fabulous Thunderbirds and Roomful of Blues and some of the East Coast's finest musicians working through a set of familiar blues and R&B classics.
Rory Block - Hard Luck Child: A Tribute To Skip James (Stony Plain): My favorite of Block's "Mentor Series" of releases paying tribute to her musical influences.
HowellDevine - Modern Sounds of Modern Juju (Arhoolie): Wow! This one really took me by surprise. It's a great mix of traditional classics, fresh new songs, and great musicianship.
Jarekus Singleton - Refuse To Lose (Alligator): Singleton broke out this year with these new release, and deservedly so. He brings a lot of influences into his brand of blues, and his approach to songwriting is totally original.
Andy T & Nick Nixon - Livin' It Up (Delta Groove): I liked their first release and I love their sophomore effort. Very reminiscent of the old Anson Funderburgh/Sam Myers collaborations (Funderburgh produced this one) with Nixon's powerful vocals and Andy T's crisp, clean fretwork.
Giles Corey - Giles Corey's Stoned Soul (Delmark): Corey was pretty busy this year, playing on Mississippi Heat's latest release and Devon Allman's new one. However, he saved his best for his own release, which mixes rock, soul, and a healthy, heaping dose of funk. This one will put a hop in your step, folks.
Dave Keller - Soul Changes (Tastee-Tone): Splitting time between Memphis (backed by the Hi Rhythm Section) and Brooklyn (backed by the Revelations) for this album, you won't be able to tell where one session starts and the other one starts. This is a great mix of originals and covers, and Keller's "17 Years" is as good a soul tune as I've heard in a long time.
Eden Brent - Jigsaw Heart (Yellow Dog): Brent's first release since 2010 finds her in Nashville with producer Colin Linden. This is her best set of songs to date and she effortlessly blends the blues with jazz, country, and gospel. She's never sounded better.
Tweed Funk - First Name Lucky (Tweed Tone): Tweed Funk has become one of my favorite bands with their last two releases of great powerhouse blues, funk, and soul. Their passion and energy comes through with every note they play.
Jimmy "Duck" Holmes & Terry "Harmonica" Bean - Twice As Hard (Broke & Hungry): One of two "Dream Team" match-ups on our list this year, this is two of Mississippi's finest blues artists working together and separately, bringing to mind the old Jack Owens/Bud Spires team. Every fan of Mississippi blues needs this disc in their collection.
James Armstrong - Guitar Angels (Catfood): Armstrong's fifth album is excellent from start to finish, with some great original songs and several pretty clever cover tunes. It's great to have Armstrong back on the scene and hopefully he's here to stay.
JJ Thames - Tell You What I Know (DeChamp): This is a fantastic set of Southern soul and blues. Thames is not only a wonderful singer, but she's also a talented songwriter, collaborating on ten of the eleven tracks here.
Rev. KM Williams - Jukin' In The Holy Land - Live in Israel (Nobody's Fault): Williams did three live dates while visiting Israel, and this disc captures the best of those dates. Raw and visceral, ragged but right, this is real deal blues in front of an enthusiastic audience.
Grady Champion - Bootleg Whiskey (Malaco): I've been listening to Champion since his days with Shanachie Records in the late 90's. I think this is his strongest and most consistent release and will appeal to fans of traditional, urban, and soul blues.
Johnny Rawls & Otis Clay - Soul Brothers (Catfood): The second "Dream Team" match up of the year. This is soul blues heaven. Rawls and Clay work so well together that you will definitely be wanting to hear more when the last track finishes. Hopefully, we will hear more from them soon.
Devon Allman - Ragged & Dirty (Ruf): Allman went to Chicago, assembled some of the city's finest musicians (keyboardist Marty Sammon, bass player Felton Crews, and guitarist Giles Corey), along with producer/drummer Tom Hambridge, and put together one of the best, and most appropriately titled, blues rock albums of the year.
Billy Boy Arnold - The Blues Soul of Billy Boy Arnold (Stony Plain): Arnold returns to Stony Plain Records, and producer/guitarist Duke Robillard, to cut an album of some of his favorite tunes. As indicated by the title, there's a lot of blues and a lot of soul here and he does both equally well.
George Taylor - Rain or Shine: Taylor blurs the line completely between the blues and country, proving that Jimmie Rodgers was as much a blues man as Jimmy Rogers was. This is a fine disc with some excellent songwriting and performances.