Blues Bytes

January 2002

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Pick Hit

As is the custom for Blues Bytes, we use the January Pick Hit to feature the reviewers' and readers' Top Ten Lists for the past year.

It's hard to believe that we've been doing Blues Bytes for five years! The site started as a way for me to keep my creative juices flowing after losing my long-time blues radio show due to the evil forces (big faceless corporations) now controlling radio in the United States. Blues Bytes is now read each month by thousands of readers from around the world. In fact, some of more dedicated followers come from places like Macedonia, Norway, Sweden and Argentina, around the world from traditional blues hotbeds like Chicago and the Mississippi Delta.

Best of all, Blues Bytes is still free. I floated a suggestion once to our reviewers that we take contributions on a voluntary basis. But these guys, all of whom review CDs each month for absolutely no compensation, voted a resounding "NO," saying that Blues Bytes should always remain a free site.

Thanks for everyone's support over the past five years. It's been a blast.

- Bill Mitchell (Editor/Publisher of Blues Bytes)


Bill Mitchell
(Editor of Blues Bytes)
Here's my list of favorite albums from 2001. They're not in any particular order. Instead of a Top Ten, I've listed a "baker's dozen" of good blues discs.

Holmes Brothers - Speaking In TonguesThe Holmes Brothers - Speaking In Tongues (Alligator). Showing that our selection of the monthly Pick Hit is an inexact science, this great CD from the coolest band around wasn't our top selection in April. But it's showing up on almost everyone's top ten list. It's THE blues album of the year.

Eric Bibb - Painting Signs (Earthbeat!). The New York native lives in Europe and is better known on that side of the world. His duet with Wilson Pickett on a gospel song makes this one a "must have!"

Chris Cain - Cain Does King (Blue Rock'It). Bay Area guitar wizard has always proudly demonstrated the B.B. King influence in his playing. Now he really pays tribute to B.B. on this fine album.

Michael Hill's Blues Mob - Larger Than Life. The band from New York City is never afraid to break away from blues stereotypes and tackle controversial subjects. On this one they deal with the controversy surrounding Thomas Jefferson and his relationship with his slaves.

Theryl "Houseman" de'Clouet - The Houseman Cometh (Bullseye). It's more funk and soul than blues, but de'Clouet is one of the finest singers I've heard in a while. You'll hear enough blues to keep you interested, but the song that will stick in your mind is the funky "Ain't No Yachts In The Ghetto."

Terry Evans - Mississippi Magic (Audioquest Music). A great soulful blues singer and guitarist just keeps getting better.

Steve Freund - I'll Be Your Mule (Delmark). Longtime session guitarist steps to the front of the bandstand and puts out another fine release of Chicago-style blues.

Henry Gray - Plays Chicago Blues (HighTone). Classic Chicago blues sound from one of last survivors of the golden age of the 1950s.

Otis Taylor - White African (Northern Blues Music). An independent traditional blues release with superb songwriting.

Bennie Smith - Shook Up (Fedora). Veteran St. Louis session guitarist puts out a surprisingly good album. His cover of Ray Charles' "Drown In My Own Tears" is a treat.

Jimmy Smith - dot com blues (Blue Thumb). Jazz B-3 stalwart Smith does a solid blues album with the help of lots of special guests. Keb' Mo' especially sounds good on vocals on the soulful "Over & Over."

Kim Wilson - Smokin' Joint (M.C. Records). Fab T-birds leader takes his blues ensemble into a couple of clubs for live sessions, and the result is a red hot blues disc.

Various Artists - Rhythm Room Blues (HighTone). Phoenix's blues landmark has seen many great performances over the last decade. Artists like R.L. Burnside, Mojo Buford, Sam Lay and others were captured live and presented on this excellent CD.  
NOTE: The Fabulous Thunderbirds just recorded a two-night performance at the Rhythm Room, so look for the resulting album to show up on this list next year.

One final note --- After listing 13 CD in my top ten, I really should stop. But just as I was completing this month's site, I took a listen to Texas Johnny Brown's Blues Defender CD. It's good, certainly worth of "top ten" mention.


Bruce Coen
(Blues Bytes reviewer from California)

"Just want to say at the outset of my fav picks for the past year that I thoroughly enjoy writing reviews for all you blues fans around the world. It truly is one of my life's highlights. Keep the blues alive throughout 2002.

Here's the list in no particular order:

Buddy Guy: Sweet Tea. Guy finally releases his premier CD with guitar chords that pulsate through your body like a jackhammer. Raw, thundering and melodic all at the same time. Best blues CD of the year.

Alligator Records 30th AnniversaryAlligator Records 30th Anniversary Collection. Wonderful two-CD sampling of Alligator's artist roster through their illustrious 30 year career as the best blues label in the country.

Bluesguy Schwartz and the New Jack Hippies: Blue Jack Hippie. Great south Texas band that's been around for years that beautifully incorporates all styles of blues into this unique release. Available at their website. Also check these "guys" out live if they breeze through your neighborhood.

Double Trouble: Been A Long Time. Great release from Stevie Ray Vaughan's rhythm band featuring a cool collection of guests.

Bob Dylan: Love and Theft. Not necessarily a blues release through and through but Dylan's feel and understanding of the blues filters in on almost every song making this CD ring true to most blues fans. This CD has also shown up on nearly everybody's Top Ten list of 2001.

Eric Clapton: Reptile. Another wonderful release by the master himself proving his stand alone guitar playing on tunes of blues, swing and jazz.

John Lisi: Blues For Chloe. Young lion out of Baton Rouge, the unofficial blues center of the world, with help from some of the area's best including blues legend Tabby Thomas. Find it at Lisi's site, This guy can lay down some scorching slide.

Clarence Gatemouth Brown: Back to Bogalusa. Every release from Brown continues his solid reputation as one of today's premiere players. This CD is no exception.

James Blood Ulmer: Memphis Blood - The Sun Sessions. We finally get to hear through the able assistance of producer Vernon Reid (Living Colour guitarist) this truly fantastic guitarist and his soulful blues.

Otis Taylor: White African. Super mix of blues beautifully realized by one of contemporary blues up and coming artists. "My Soul's in Louisiana" is worth the price of this CD alone.

Extra: Bill Wyman's Blues Odyssey. Remarkable video documentary on the development of the blues built around interviews of the "quiet" bassman from the Stones coupled with Wyman's interviews of the legends including B.B. King and Buddy Guy. Currently running on Bravo.

That's it. See you next year.

Yours in the Blues, Bruce Coen


Steve Hinrichsen
(Blues Bytes reviewer from California)

A very Happy New Year to all the readers that support this site that I am so very proud to be a contributor to. As some of you know,. I cheated on last years Top Ten and it was really a Top Twelve. Well, as the saying goes, "Once a cheat always a cheat,” so I did it again! Maybe we should make this a top 20 instead, then I’ll be legal! My selections are numbered but any one of them could easily occupy the number one slot as I feel they are all equally as good. The three that are there stand out above all the rest. Thank you to all of you for reading and to my very distinguished editor, Mr. Bill Mitchell, and all the wonderful folks at The Phoenix Blues Society for publishing my stuff.

Blind Boys of Alabama1. The Blind Boys Of Alabama - Spirit Of The Century
1a. Rod Piazza & The Mighty Flyers - Beyond The Source
1b. Kid Ramos - Greasy Kid Stuff
2. John Hammond - Wicked Grin
3. Jimmie Vaughan - Do You Get The Blues?
4. Kim Simmonds - Blues Like Midnight
5. Dan Penn - Blue Nite Lounge
6. Louisiana Red - Driftin’
7. Chris Cain - Cain Does King
8. Terry Evans - Mississippi Magic
9. Nick Curran - Fixin Your Head
10. The Max Weinberg 7 - The Max Weinberg 7


Tony Engelhart
(new Blues Bytes reviewer from Washington)

1. Robert CrayShoulda Been Home 
2. Left Hand Smoke - So Many Faces 
3. Craig Horton - In My Spirit 
4. Little Toby Walker - Little Toby Walker 
5. Eric Bibb - Painting Signs 
6. Keb Mo - Big Wide Grin 
7. Peter Green - Time Traders 
8. Buddy Guy - Sweet Tea 
9. Michael Burks - Make it Rain 
10. John Mayall - Turning Point


Alan Shutro
(long-time Blues Bytes reviewer and soul afficianado from Phoenix)

Francine Reed1.Francine Reed-I Got A Right...To Some of My Best-CMO
2.Marva Wright-Marva-Aim (Australia)
3.Little Milton-Feel It-Malaco Records
4.Johnny Rawls-Put Your Trust In Me-JSP
5.Roscoe Shelton/Earl Gaines-Let's Work Together-Cannonball
6.Holmes Brothers-Speaking In Tongues-Alligator
7.Oscar Toney Jr.-Guilty of Loving You-Bob Grady Records
8.Johnny Adams-Released-RPM Records
9.Barbara Carr-The Best Woman-Ecko Records
10.(Tie) Joe Tex-The New Boss-Connoisseur Collection
Joe Tex-The Love You Save-Connoisseur Collection


Graham Clarke
(Blues Bytes reviewer from Mississippi)

11 Favorite New Releases for 2000:
The Holmes Brothers - Speaking in Tongues (Alligator)
Rico McFarland - Tired of Being Alone (Evidence)
Michael Burks
- Make It Rain (Alligator)
Ervin Charles - Greyhound Blues (Dialtone)
Robert Cray - Shoulda Been Home (Rykodisc)
Sven Zetterberg - Let Me Get Over It (Last Buzz)
Lazy Lester - Blues Stop Knockin' (Texas Music Group/Antone's)
Billy Boy Arnold - Boogie 'n' Shuffle (Stony Plain)
Joe Richardson Express - Way Beyond The Blues
Various Artists - Hellhound On My Trail: Songs of Robert Johnson
Dan Penn - Blue Nite Lounge (Dandy)

Favorite Reissues for 2000:
Luther Allison - Bad News Is Comin' / Luther's Blues (Motown/Universal)
Magic Sam - The Essential Magic Sam: Cobra & Chief Recordings 1957-1961 (Varese Sarabande)
Various Artists - Get Low Down: The Soul of New Orleans '65-'67 (Sundazed)
Baby Boy Warren - Stop Breakin' Down (Official)
Irma Thomas - If You Want It, Come and Get It (Rounder)


Kris Handel
(Blues Bytes reviewer from New Hampshire)

1. Mary Dukes - Introducing The Divine Ms. Mary  (South Side Records) 
2. Michael Hill"s Blues Mob - Suite: Larger Than Life
3. Mighty Sam McClain - Sweet Dreams
4. Buddy Guy - Sweet Tea
5. Roy Roberts - Burnin' Love
6. George Higgs - Tarboro Blues  ( Music Maker)
7. Billy Boy Arnold - Boogie N' Shuffle
8. Jerry McCain - Unplugged  (Music Maker)
9. Capt. Luke and Cool John - Outsider Lounge Music (Music Maker)
10. South Side Slim - Raising Hell  (South Side Records)


Tim Holek
(one of the newer Blues Bytes reviewers, from Canada)

Luther "Guitar Junior" Johnson - Talkin About Soul - Telarc
A Luther "Guitar Junior" Johnson CD finally exists that accurately depicts the man and his music. On this disc, Johnson emerges as the bona fide leader of the Chicago West Side sound.

Holmes Brothers - Speaking In Tongues - Alligator 
The music on this disc will touch your soul and the lyrics will challenge you spiritually. Its resonating 3-part vocal harmonies and rhythms will have you shouting from the mountain-tops.

Michael Burks - Make It Rain - Alligator
Michael Burks is one of those rare artists who has mastered contemporary blues by combining it with soul, funk and a tad of rock. The boundless energy on this CD will leave you breathless and exhausted.

Big James - If It Wasn't 4 Da Blues - Jamot
Within hearing seconds of this disc, you know this is an experienced band rich in the rough, funky, soul/blues sound of Chicago’s non-tourist blues clubs. These guys have the freshest sound in the blues today.

Rita Chiarelli - Breakfast At Midnight - NorthernBlues
This disc features heart-warming, bayou-inspired songs about desire, romantic obsession and love lost. The songs bare the soul of Rita Chiarelli and invite the listener to feel their places, characters and emotions.

Big Time Sarah - A Million Of You - Delmark
Heavily features BTS' stormy and hefty vocals amongst some killer guitar and piano work.

Mel Brown - Homewreckin' Done Live - Electro-Fi
Mel doesn’t mesmerize with speed but rather chooses to hypnotize with smooth, sharp, precise note pickin’. Imagine what you would get if you removed the aggression from Son Seals and added the grace of Johnnie Bassett. 

Various - Blind Pig 25th Anniversary Collection - Blind Pig
Specializes in all types of roots music. Included in this collection: contemporary blues, rap’n blues, Delta blues, progressive blues, rock’n blues, Texas blues, harmonica blues, gospel, Chicago blues, soul, rockabilly, R&B, acoustic blues, zydeco, big band, boogie woogie, West Coast blues, country blues, and real blues.

Deborah Coleman - Livin' On Love - Blind Pig
On her 4th Blind Pig release, Deborah proves she can write 12 bar blues and pop. She is one of today’s finest cross over artists taking the blues on a new journey.

Rico McFarlandRico McFarland - Tired Of Being Alone - Evidence
After being a perpetual sideman Rico McFarland steps out front and proves he is strong enough to hold his own. When it comes to delivering contemporary blues guitar arrangements and licks, Rico is the man.


Mark Gallo
(Blues Bytes reviewer from Michigan)

1. Maria Muldaur: Richland Woman Blues (Stony Plain) Her voice has gotten better over the years. This is not only the Album of the Year -- it's the best Muldaur has ever released.

2. Motor City R&B Pioneers (Blue Suit). This will be out at the end of January on Toledo's Blue Suit label. Spectacular vocals from Joe Weaver, Kenny Martin and Stanley Mitchell -- produced by RJ Spangler, who had so much to do with resurrecting the careers of Alberta Adams and Johnnie Bassett.

3. Ernie Hawkins: Blues Advice (Say Mo' Music). The best new acoustic artist of the year. Shades of Gary Davis and Skip James by a modern-day master. 

4. Ernie Hawkins: Bluesified (Say Mo' Music). The thrill was that he gave us two absolute gems!

5. James Montgomery Band: Bring It On Home (Conqueroot) His first album in eons, this is straight-ahead blues that no collection should be without. 

6. Bill Thomas: Ain't Half-Steppin' (BlueTrack) Out of Texas and now based in the UK, Thomas has a sound reminiscent of Melvin Taylor with the added bonus of first-rate self-penned tunes. 

7. Butler Twins: Butler's Boogie (Back Porch Blues Project) Detroit's urban juke-jointers have the album of their career recorded live with two former and one current lead guitarists on board. 

8. The Griswolds: Cockeyed World (Blue Suit) The Kings of the Toledo blues scene are the equal of any blues band in America. Shades of Buddy Guy and Junior Wells at times. It's not a coincidence that nearly everything Blue Suit released this year is on this top 10 list. The Griswolds are their team leaders. 

9. Maurice John Vaughn: Dangerous Road (Blue Suit) 
Vaughn was dropped from the Alligator roster in 1993. This eclipses both the discs he cut for them. Clever songwriting and arranging, and ass-kicking instrumentation and singing. 

10. Johnny A: Sometime Tuesday Morning (Favored Nations) Is it blues? Maybe/maybe not. The guitarist with Peter Wolf (ex-J. Geils Band) has recorded a guitar album on Steve Vai's label. No vocals and nothing you'd expect. Mostly originals and a few well-chosen covers. 


Terry Clear
(Blues Bytes reviewer from Spain)

1. Alligator Records 30th Anniversary
2. Bill Wyman´s Blues Odyssey
3. Buddy Guy - Sweet Tea
4. John Hammond Jr. - Wicked Grin
5. Honeyboy Edwards - Mississippi Delta Bluesman
6. R.L. Burnside - Burnside on Burnside
7. Blind Dog Smokin' & Miss Blues - Sittin' In
8. Lightnin' Hopkins - The Best Of ...
9. Odetta - Looking For A Home
10. Fred McDowell - The Best Of ...


Benoît Brière
(Blues Bytes reviewer from Montreal)

I love the blues. Pre-war blues, post war blues, acoustic, electric, Chicago style, West Coast, Texas. I also agree with those that say that the blues as an art form is no longer in a creative peak, that much of it, though sometimes entertaining, is repetitive, derivative, not very stimulating. But I don't think that the blues is dead. There are blues artists (and non-blues artists who sometimes play the blues) that are striving to prove that the blues still has some meaning in the 21st century. When choosing my list of favorite blues records from 2001, I followed the following rules: no multiple-CD sets (thereby I did not vote for the mega-Patton treasury box), no straight reissue of albums from past eras (although I still consider the Otis Spann reissue as one of my favorite all-time discs). Only new material, meaningful, with something to say, striving to modernize the sounds, the thoughts, the words, the spirit of the blues. I did not get to hear even 10%, maybe, of all blues records that came out in the last year or so. Still, I believe every album listed here, and in the similar lists of my colleagues at Blues Bytes, will prove satisfying, will move you or make you think, will prove that the blues is still a viable art form, through which artists can help us understand the world better. All I can wish, for you and for me, during this year 2002 that is just starting, is plenty more exciting blues records.

- Benoît Brière

Top 10 records of the past year (give or take a few months)

1. Bob Dylan - Love and Theft (A great album, period, by someone who can choose any style he wants)
2. Holmes Brothers - Speaking in Tongues (Powerful stuff)
3. Kelly Joe Phelps - Sky like a Broken Clock (Acoustic and poetic blues)
4. Otis Taylor - White African (Gripping, though a bit overproduced)
5. Various artists - Train don't Leave Me (More powerful stuff)
6. Marcia Ball - Presumed Innocent (I have a weakness for Louisiana music)
7. Dr. John - Creole Moon (see just above)
8. Blind Boys of Alabama - Spirit of the Century (A rebirth of sort)
9. Rusty Zinn - The Chill (A major new talent on guitar, very hip)
10. The Sidemen - Rattlebag (Well, I had to pick one Canadian record, and this one is full of inventiveness)

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