Friday, January 17, 2020

Friday Blues Fix's Top 20 Blues Albums of 2019

Maybe you've noticed that there have been no posts here at FBF in over six months.  I apologize for that, but things have been hectic for most of the year around the old household.  During the Christmas holiday, I decided that I needed to step away from reviewing CDs at Blues Bytes (I will be reviewing the ones that I've already received over the next year, so will still be contributing off and on for several months) and will probably be stepping away from posting here as well (not that I have been that much anyway), maybe doing a tribute post to those blues movers and shakers that passed away in 2019 in a few weeks.  The next few months are going to be pretty full of family and work responsibilities, but hopefully, in a few months things will return to normal.

I am going to post my 20 favorite blues releases for the past year.  I hope some of them were yours as they are in no particular order.

Friday Blues Fix's Top 20 Blues Albums of 2019

Big Creek Slim & Rodrigo Mantovani – First Born (Chico Blues):  This is a superb set of traditional blues from Danish blues man Slim and Brazilian bass player Mantovani. Nice mix of original songs that blend well with their choice of cover tunes.

Bloodest Saxophone – Texas Queens 5 (Dialtone/Vizztone):  This Japanese jump blues unit is always cooking, but this time around, they get to back some of the Lone Star State’s finest female blues singers who deserve to be heard.

Willie Buck – Willie Buck Way (Delmark):  Buck sings Chicago blues the way they used to do it back in the Windy City’s glory days of the 1950’s.  So glad he's finally getting some much-deserved recognition.

Mary Lane – Travelin’ Woman (Women of the Blues):  A marvelous set of blues from the Chicago blues legend that will make listeners wish she’d get to the studio more often, and hope she will do it again soon.

Kenny “Beedy Eyes” Smith & The House Bumpers – Drop The Hammer (Vizztone):  Drummer Smith turns in a strong set of blues that will please traditional and contemporary blues fans, backed by a great group of fellow second-generation blues men.

Bob Corritore & Friends – DoThe Hip-Shake Baby! (Vizztone):  This set is what blues fans have come to expect with a Bob Corritore release….an entertaining set of blues (with hints of old school rock n’ roll, R&B, and gospel) from the harp master and an all-star cast of the best in blues.

Grady Champion – Steppin’ In:  A Tribute To Z.Z. Hill (Malaco):  A fine tribute to a soul-blues legend, from Malaco's early days, Champion does a marvelous job with these classic tunes.

Zac Harmon – Mississippi BarBQ (Catfood):  My favorite Harmon release to date…..a fine mix of blues and soul from one of the most dependable current record labels for either genre and one of the most consistent blues artists of the past twenty years.

Delbert McClinton & Self-Made Men + Dana – Tall, Dark & Handsome (Hot Shot):  The Texas roadhouse legend turns in a rollicking set that captures his reckless musical spirit as well as anything he’s ever released.

Various Artists – Battle of the Blues:  Chicago Vs. Oakland (Delta Roots):  A great anthology set that features blues artists from both cities…..some you know, some you don’t know, but all of whom deserve to be heard.

Junior Watson (featuring Alabama Mike) – Nothin’ To It But To Do It (Little Village Foundation):  I love just about everything that comes out of Kid Andersen’s Greaseland Studios, but this was one of the best of the lot this year, with the legendary guitarist Watson at the top of his game (with superb vocal support from Alabama Mike and Anderson’s wife Lisa Leuschner-Andersen).

Billy Price – Dog Eat Dog (Gulf Coast):  Stellar soul and blues set from one of the finest singers currently practicing.

Ghost Town Blues Band – Shine:  A potent mix of blues, rock, and soul from the Memphis-based blues rockers.  These guys blow me away every time I listen, and each album improves upon its predecessor.  

Johnny Rawls – I Miss Otis Clay (Third Street Cigar):  So do I, Mr. Rawls, but I’m mighty glad that you are here to carry on his legacy with this powerful set.

The Sensational Barnes Brothers – Nobody’s Fault But Mine (Bible and Tire):  This disc sounds like a gospel session at Stax Records…..absolutely breathtaking.  They are still making mighty music in Memphis!

Toronzo Cannon – The Preacher, The Politician, Or The Pimp (Alligator):  As much as I like Cannon’s tough guitar work and vocals, I really enjoy his songwriting.  It makes me laugh, cry, and think.  It’s been great watching him develop his style over the past few years.

Christone “Kingfish” Ingram – Kingfish (Alligator):  I’ve been reading about and listening to this young man since he was 12 or 13.  That said, this is one of the best debut releases I’ve heard in my 30+years of listening to the blues.  A strong, diverse, and confident set that shows the future of the blues is in good hands.

North Mississippi Allstars – Up And Rolling (New West):  A typically strong set from the group….a deft combination of traditional and contemporary Mississippi Hill Country blues, loaded with guest stars (Mavis Staples, Jason Isbell, Cedric Burnside, Duane Betts).

Jimmy Johnson – Every Day of Your Life (Delmark):  Great set from one of the first blues artists I ever heard way back in the 80's.  Johnson just turned 91(!) and he sounds like he’s not planning on going anywhere anytime soon, thank goodness! 

The Reverend Shawn Amos – Kitchen Table Blues (Vol. 1 & 2):  Two EP’s count as one album in my book.  These songs taken from Amos’ series (with assorted guest stars) are a lot of fun and show Amos’ love for the music.  Blues fans are advised to check out the whole YouTube series when you have a chance.