Friday, December 30, 2022

Friday Blues Fix's Top 20 Albums for 2022

Well, it's been a while since we've posted here, but the end of the year is as good time as any for us to go through FBF's Top 20 releases for 2022.  In a few weeks, the January issue of Blues Bytes will present their reviewers' Top 10 for the year, so, if you care, you'll be able to see which of these 20 made my Top 10.  This was a pretty good year for new releases, a mix of new, exciting talented artists and a lot of veterans who showed that they still have a lot of fuel in the tank.  

Check out my favorites (listed in alphabetical order) and see how many are on your lists, and please share yours in the Comments if you're so inclined.

Friday Blues Fix's Top 20 for 2022

Rick Berthod - Tribute to Peter Green:  Nevada-based guitarist Berthod does a great job interpreting this tunes that the underrated British guitarist recorded with the early, blues-based edition of Fleetwood Mac.  He remains faithful to the originals, but adds enough of his own sound to keep things fresh.  Like any good tribute album, this will please longtime fans of Green, lead newcomers to check out the original works, and encourage them to check out more of Berthod's impressive catalog, too.

Chris Canas - Detroit (Third Street Cigar Records):  The Motor City's "Prince of the Blues" made the finals of the 2020 I.B.C.'s and this release shows what the fuss was all about.  A powerful vocalist and guitarist and a good songwriter, this album (his eighth) really serves as his mission statement.....he's here to play his brand of blues, - contemporary blues with flourishes of  rock, soul, funk, even reggae - his way.  I think listeners will be perfectly fine with that.

The Dig 3 - It always puts a hop in my step to see a new album of old-school blues played well, or in this case, extremely well.  Andrew Duncanson of Kilborn Alley Blues Band teams up with harp master Ronnie Shellist and multi-instrumentalist Gerry Hundt on this superb set of original tunes that pays tribute to the great blues tunes and artists of yesteryear.  Part of the reason this set works so well is the sheer love and enthusiasm these guys have for every tune.

Ronnie Earl and the Broadcasters - Mercy Me (Stony Plain Records):  This is Earl's 28th album and one of his best, with support from his outstanding band and several guest stars.  Evenly split between originals and covers, Earl's guitar work continues to dazzle, on both electric and acoustic, while Diane Blue continues to be one of the best vocalist currently practicing.  It's hard to go wrong with any Ronnie Earl release, but this one is near the top of the list.

The Love Light Orchestra - Leave The Light On (Nola Blue Records):  I have a soft spot for the great sounds of Memphis blues and R&B of the 50's and 60's, and so do the members of The Love Light Orchestra, a nine-piece band of Memphis-area musicians fronted by vocalist John Nemeth, a master of the soul and blues genre whose voice is tailor-made for this sound.  Their second release is made up of nearly all original tunes that seem to be pulled from a 50's/60's-era jukebox and the performances will put goose bumps on your goose bumps.

Trudy Lynn - Golden Girl (Nola Blue Records):  Over 25 years ago, I met a guy from Houston on the old Blues Access bulletin board.  He turned me on to a lot of great music from the Houston area that I had previously not heard, including Ms. Trudy Lynn.  What an amazing singer and talent, and she's backed by an incredible set of musicians on this excellent set.  Ms. Trudy just rips through this set and leaves you waiting breathlessly for her next one.

John Mayall - The Sun Is Shining Down (Forty Below Records):  The King of British Blues stepped back from touring in late 2021, but he's still recording, releasing this album earlier this year.  There are several guest guitarists on this set, including Melvin Taylor, Mike Campbell, and Marcus King, but he's got the phenomenal Carolyn Wonderland playing guitar throughout the session, the latest addition to his band.  Mayall recently turned 89, but he sounds like he's got a few more great albums left in him.

Delbert McClinton - Outdated Emotion (Hot Shot Records/Thirty Tigers):  McClinton also retired from touring last year, but he also continues to record.  His 27th studio release is a collection of songs by artists who influenced him over his 65+year career, and it's a ton of fun.  Most listeners will know the songs here from Lloyd Price, Jimmy Reed, Hank Williams, Little Richard, John Lee Hooker, Ray Charles, plus a few McClinton tracks as well, and they will be singing along having nearly as much fun as McClinton and the band probably did.

Larry McCray - Blues Without You (KTBA Records):  I've been a fan of McCray's since I heard his 1991 debut.  He's had pretty rough luck since the late 90's - most of his releases are out of print and his later recordings are hard to track down, but he's continued to play and perform.  Fortunately, he connected with Joe Bonamassa and Josh Smith and they produced this fantastic comeback, which may be the best example of McCray's artistry to date, covering blues, soul, and rock in equal measures.  That thunderous voice and guitar work is as strong as it was 30 years ago and hopefully, this is the beginning of a better streak of luck for this underappreciated blues man.

Yates McKendree - Buchanan Lane (Qualified Records):  While you listen to this album, and you really should, keep in mind that this young man is 21 years old.  McKendree, the son of piano player Kevin McKendree, has released a most impressive album of originals and covers with nods to B.B. King, T-Bone Walker, and Guitar Slim, to just name a few.  A talented singer and guitarist, this young man has a bright future and so does the blues world.

Mississippi Heat - Madeleine (Van der Linden Recordings):  Harp master Pierre Lacocque and his associates (including vocalists Inetta Visor and Daneshia Hamilton, guitarists Giles Corey and Michael Dotson) are joined by a host of guest artists (Carl Weathersby, Lurrie Bell, Kenny "Beedy Eyes" Smith, and Johnny Iguana, among others) on this typically excellent set of original tunes.....a true collaborative effort and one of the band's best ever.

John Nemeth - May Be The Last Time (Nola Blue Records):  Nemeth's second appearance on this list finds the singer teaming with Kid Andersen, Elvin Bishop, and Alabama Mike for a stunning session recorded at Greaseland.  Nemeth is facing a long recovery from cancer surgery that required reconstruction of his lower jaw and could prevent him from singing and playing harmonica in the future.  Nemeth sounds awesome on these tracks, both vocally and on harp, and the supporting cast is fabulous as well.  Proceeds from the sales of this album are going toward Nemeth's numerous medical bills, so there's even more incentive to give this one a listen, besides the fact that it's an excellent release.

The Phantom Blues Band - Blues For Breakfast (Little Village Foundation):  One of the finest modern blues bands turned out a winner with this year's release, a wide-ranging set of blues and soul covers with guest appearances from Ruthie Foster, Bonnie Raitt, Curtis Salgado, and Kelly Finnigan, whose late father, Mike, was a member (and also appears on one track).  These guys have backed nearly everybody that's anybody in the blues world and it's nice that they get to have the spotlight for themselves for a change.

John Primer - Hard Times (Blues House Productions):  Primer has gone from one of the genre's young talents to one of the seasoned veterans of the scene since I started listening to the blues.  His latest album is a well-crafted set of traditional and contemporary Chicago blues recorded with his Real Deal Blues Band and a guest appearance from Primer's daughter, Aliya.  Primer continues to be a force of nature on the Windy City blues scene.

Jose Ramirez - Major League Blues (Delmark Records):  Ramirez is definitely in the big leagues after releasing this marvelous album, his Delmark debut.  The Costa Rican blues man is joined by the late Jimmy Johnson on what would be his final recording and the Delmark All-Star Band on this stellar set.  Ramirez is one of the finest blues guitarist and vocalist currently practicing and this set is just outstanding.

Silent Partners - Changing Times (Little Village Foundation):  In the late 80's, guitarist Mel Brown, drummer Tony Coleman, and bassist Russell Jackson released a fine album that was a forgotten gem.  Sadly, Brown passed away in 2009, but Coleman and Jackson added Memphis guitarist Jonathan Ellison for the sequel.  He proves to be a worthy successor as guitarist and vocalist.  Hopefully, the new trio won't wait another 30 years for their next collaboration.

Angela Strehli - Ace of Blues (New West/Antone's Records):  This one brought a big smile to my face.  I've always enjoyed Ms. Strehli's powerful vocals on her albums.  It's been a while since I've heard anything and this release really hit the spot, as she pays tribute to the songs and musicians who were such an influence throughout her long career.  It's a great set of tunes, most of them you'll know, and she and the band have a blast performing them.  The liner notes are wonderful, too, loaded with pictures and Strehli's comments about each song and artist.

Demetria Taylor - Doin' What I'm Supposed To Do (Delmark Records):  Taylor is the daughter of the late Chicago blues legend Eddie Taylor.  Ms. Taylor toiled on this album for two and a half years, dealing with family losses and the pandemic, but it was well worth the wait.  She has a smooth, refined vocal delivery that is downright refreshing and she is comfortable singing blues, soul, and R&B.  She's also backed by a powerhouse band, including Mike Wheeler, Billy Flynn, and Carlos Showers on guitar.

The Texas Horns - Everybody Let's Roll (Blue Heart Records):  Mark "Kaz" Kazanoff, John Mills, and Al Gomez return with their third great set of horn-driven blues numbers.  They're supported by an all-star cast of guest artists, including Jimmie Vaughan, Anson Funderburgh, Caroline Wonderland, Johnny Moeller, Mike Flanigin, Marcia Ball, Mike Zito, and Guy Forsyth, to name just a few.  This is a well-rounded set of tunes that reminded me a lot of the old Black Top Records releases of the 80's and 90's (several of these artists are alumni of the much-missed label).  

Dylan Triplett - Who Is He? (VizzTone Records):  Last, but certainly not least on my list is this superb release from another 21-year-old, St. Louis vocalist Dylan Triplett.  He comes from a musical family and has been singing over half of his life.  He has a confidence and maturity of someone twenty years older.  This set includes songs from Lonnie Brooks, Jimmy McCracklin, and Marvin Gaye, plus an amazing interpretation of Miles Davis' "All Blues," plus appearances from Christone "Kingfish" Ingram and members of the Phantom Blues Band (bassist Larry Fulcher produced).  Triplett is another great young artist making the future of the blues look even brighter.

Well, that's my Top 20.  I would love to see yours, so please post in the Comments if you feel so inclined.

I have to apologize for the lack of posting this year.  It's been a tough year, especially the last few months, but hopefully 2023 will be a better year for everyone.  Happy New Year to all!


Anonymous said...

Good list! One correction on The Dig 3 review: it's Gerry Hundt, not Garry. l would also include two other Little Village releases: by Diunna Greenleaf, "l Ain't Playin' " and Tia Carroll "You Gotta Have It ."

Graham said...

Thanks. Corrected. Ms. Greenleaf's was in the running for sure.