Corey Stevens - Albertville (Ruf Records): When Stevens got started in the early 90's, he drew the inevitable comparisons with Stevie Ray Vaughan, but he worked hard to move beyond SRV's shadow to prove himself a fine songwriter and performer in his own right. Like Vaughan and numerous other modern-day blues guitarists, Stevens was influenced by Albert King, and this 2007 release paid tribute to the legendary guitarist. Stevens covers nine of King's tunes, ranging from the familiar ("Breaking Up Somebody's Home," "Cold Women With Warm Hearts," "I Get Evil," "Got To Be Some Changes Made") to the fairly obscure ("A Real Good Sign," "Little Brother (Make A Way)," and my favorite on the disc, "That's What The Blues Is All About."). Stevens plays in King's style, but more in reverence than imitation, and he has developed his own distinct vocal style over time as well. This is well worth seeking out, as are most of Corey Stevens' other releases.
Sonny Rhodes - Out of Control (King Snake Records): I plan to devote an entire post to the amazing Sonny Rhodes, one of the only proponents of lap steel guitar in the blues, really soon. He's also a great electric guitarist, is actually the complete package as a blues man.....an excellent songwriter and strong vocalist. Though he's been playing since the late 50's, entertaining crowds with his guitar prowess, his colorful suits and turbans, he really came into his own as a recording artist in the late 80's/early 90's with releases on Atlanta's Ichiban label and the late, much-missed King Snake Records out of Sanford, Florida. Released in 1996, Out of Control was Rhodes' second and best release for King Snake, and it burns from start to finish. Rhodes alternates between lap steel and electric guitar and contributes some of his best songs. The late Bob Greenlee, owner of King Snake, co-wrote several of these tracks with Rhodes. Any of Rhodes' great albums are worth a listen.....many, like this one, are out of print, but can be found pretty easily. Out of Control is one of the best of the bunch.
Robert Belfour - Pushin' My Luck (Fat Possum): This is Belfour's second Fat Possum release and came out in 2003. Somehow, I missed it until last summer, when I found it in the great Jackson, MS bookstore, Lemuria. Belfour plays guitar in that stark, hypnotic Hill Country style that artists like Junior Kimbrough, R.L. Burnside, and Mississippi Fred McDowell perfected, but Belfour's coarse, growling vocals make his music stand out. This is raw, sweaty, ragged, Mississippi blues at its best. Belfour hasn't recorded since this one, though he did make an appearance in the M for Mississippi documentary a few years back. Someone really needs to fix that situation and soon.
Hash Brown - Hash Brown's Texas Blues Revue (Cannonball Records): I've always enjoyed these "Revue" albums that feature several different singers and a host of musicians backing them. Texas guitarist Brown has assembled such an album, with vocalists Sam Myers, Darrell Nulisch, and Zuzu Bollin (in what may have been his late recordings). Fans of Texas blues will be familiar with the song list, and all of these vocalists sound great (Brown himself takes the mic for one track), and the music is fantastic with Brown's T-Bone Walker-influenced guitar work really standing out. This one came out in 1999 and Cannonball Records closed shop soon afterward, but this one can still be found with a little searching. It's worth it, as are most of Cannonball's other albums (remember the little cannonballs inserted into the CD case?),
Earl Hooker - Sweet Black Angel (MCA/One Way Records): This one might take a little bit more searching, but it's well worth it. Hooker recorded this short session (28 minutes) in the late 60's, just before his death, with old buddy Ike Turner behind the controls. It's a pretty diverse set, with Hooker covering James Brown, Roosevelt Sykes, Robert Johnson, Robert Nighthawk, and R.G. Ford, plus bringing some sharp instrumentals that belie their rather bland song titles ("Shuffle," "Country and Western," "Funky Blues," etc....). Some might want to start elsewhere if they're just discovering Hooker, but this is a really nice sampling of just how great he was and you will definitely want to hear more after this one, whether you're a newcomer or a longtime fan.