Blues Bytes

January 2003

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Pick Hit

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

As Blues Bytes enters its seventh year, I'd like to take this opportunity to thank all of the reviewers who have donated their services since the first issue in December of 1996. We've got a great bunch of reliable and knowledgeable guys who toil away each month for no pay. Of course, it's much more fun when you do something for love rather than money.

In addition, we wouldn't have lasted this long without the loyal support of our thousands of readers from around the world. Thanks to all of you for loving the blues!

- Bill Mitchell (Editor/Publisher of Blues Bytes)


Bill Mitchell
(Editor of Blues Bytes)
Here's my list of favorite albums from 2002.

Jody Williams - Return Of A LegendJody Williams - Return Of A Legend (Evidence). No question about it, this comeback album by the former guitarist with Bo Diddley and Howlin' Wolf topped everything else this year. It's a real shame that he stayed away from the music business for 30 years, but it's nice having him back.

Jackie Greene - Gone Wanderin' (Dig Music). The best debut disc in years comes from a 21-year-old Californian ... it's not all blues, but who cares?

Harry Manx - Wise and Otherwise (NorthernBlues). Acoustic guitarist takes traditional blues and heads in a lot of different directions, including a nod towards India with the use of several traditional instruments from that area of the world.

W.C. Clark - From Austin With Soul (Alligator). The godfather of Austin blues gets better with age. His first for Alligator reminds the listener of the classic Stax soul / blues formula.

Otis Taylor - Respect The Dead (NorthernBlues). Colorado artist just might be the finest and most innovative songwriter on the scene today. This is blues that makes the listener think about life.

Snooks Eaglin - The Way It Is (Money Pit). This new CD from New Orleans' coolest cat is being called the last "Black Top recording," as it was produced by the Scott brothers just prior to the Black Top label going out of business. It's more of the same great stuff from Eaglin.

David Jacobs-Strain - Stuck On The Way Back (NorthernBlues). Do you notice a trend here? This is the third CD on this list from the excellent Canadian label NorthernBlues. Jacobs-Strain's fourth CD, released while he was still in teens, shows an incredibly mature acoustic guitarist and a strong singer.

Blind Boys of Alabama - Higher Ground (Real World). These veterans of the gospel world, now in their eighth decade of recording, are quite simply the best "live" act around. They break the mold again with an energetic mix of both secular and non-secular songs.

Syl & Jimmy Johnson - Two Johnsons Are Better Than One (Evidence). The Brothers Johnson, both legendary performers in their own rights, team up for the first time in their careers for this great mixture of blues and soul.

Bryan Lee - Six String Therapy (Justin Time). New Orleans guitarist teams up with Duke Robillard and company to record a nice collection of classic New Orleans-style R&B tunes.

One final note --- See my review of Khronos (Ossia) by Seattle soul band Maktub elsewhere in this issue. It's not a blues disc, but ranks as the most compelling CD I've heard all year.

One more final note --- I've been a big Joe Louis Walker fan for years. I haven't heard his In The Morning CD yet. Since it made so many other reviewers' lists, I undoubtedly would have included the disc on my Top Ten list.


Bruce Coen
(Blues Bytes reviewer from California)

My 2002 Top Ten List (in no particular order):

1) In the Pocket - A Taste of Blues Harmonica
A super collection of legendary harpists from yesterday and today.

2) Joe Louis Walker - In the Morning
Definitely my favorite release of the year where Walker melds most genres into a nicely wrought bundle of blues.

3) Delbert McClinton - Room to Breathe
South Texan McClinton continues putting out his wonderful brand of boogie based beer drenched funky/country blues.

4) Tab Benoit - Wetlands
South Louisiana born and bred Benoit delivers with every release his unique stamp of swamp blues. Also check out his collaboration with Jimmy Thackery on the Telarc label.

5) Jimmy Thackery & the Drivers - We Got It
Jamming blues from Jimmy and the boys.

6) Malkum & Chris - Yes, I Want to Go
Brilliant acoustic blues with superb harmonies.

7) Big Al & the Heavyweights - Late Night Gumbo Party
Boogie blues with enough spirit to last into the wee hours at that next crawfish boil.

8) Blind Boys of Alabama - Higher Ground
Inspirational blues from the boys that brought us Spirit of the Century last year, with a host of guest artists like sacred steel player Robert Randolph.

9) Derek Trucks - Joyful Noise
I wouldnąt expect anything less from a true descendent of one of the greatest southern blues bands ever, the Allman Brothers. Trucks goes way beyond the traditional blues here for a fine collection.

10) Ronnie Earl - Ronnie Earl and Friends
As the title suggests guitar virtuoso plays some fine blues with pals Kim Wilson, Luther "Guitar Jr." Johnson and others.

Keep listening to the blues.

Yours in the Blues,
Bruce Coen


Steve Hinrichsen (Blues Bytes reviewer from California)

Wow. Has it been a year already? Seems like I just only submitted my Top Ten list for 2001 a couple of months ago! I’d like to wish all of our readers around the world that support this site that I am so proud to be a contributor a very Happy New Year and the very best in 2003. This past year saw some really fine releases, and the choices for a Top Ten list were overwhelming. So I did what I have done the past two years.... I cheated, of course! Hey old habits are hard to break. I ended up with a Top Sixteen list that tries real hard to look like a Top Twelve list, with four releases sharing the number one slot this time around. Any one of my selections could easily have filled the number one position, but these four stood head and shoulders above the rest in 2002. Thank you all once again for reading and for your kind words and emails, and a very special thank you to my distinguished editor, Mr. Bill Mitchell, and everyone at The Phoenix Blues Society for all their hard work at keeping the blues alive, but especially for letting me be a part of the best damned blues site on the web!

Top Ten
1. Jody Williams - Return Of A Legend
Hard to believe this cat took the last 30 years off isn’t it?
1A. Bryan Lee - Six String Therapy
This one is so hot I burn my fingers every time I play it.
1B. Byther Smith - Smitty’s Blues
This is the real deal.
1C. Jimmy Dawkins - West Side Guitar Hero
Someone want to explain to me why this guy isn’t a superstar?
Blind Boys of Alabama2. The Blind Boys Of Alabama - Higher Ground
Eight decades in the business and still going strong.
3.Jimmy Thackery/Tab Benoit - Whiskey Store
One of this years truly fun albums.
4. Joe Louis Walker/Otis Grand - Guitar Brothers
A sequel would be really nice.
5. Lee McBee - Soul Deep
One of the blues most powerful voices.
6. Rick Holmstrom - Hydraulic Groove
Blues for the 21st century.
7. Tab Benoit -Wetlands
He just keeps getting better with every release.
8. Willie King and The Liberators - Living In A New World
Thought provoking to say the very least.
9. Jimmy Thackery and The Drivers - We Got It
Their best work to date.
10. Big Jack Johnson - The Memphis Barbeque Sessions
Take a HUGE bite of this fine record.
11. The James Cotton Blues Band - 35th Anniversary Jam
Powerful stuff from one of the grand masters.
12. W.C. Clark - From Austin With Soul
The title says it all.
13. Precious Bryant - Fool Me Good
Probably the most underrated album of the year.


Tony Engelhart
(Blues Bytes reviewer from Washington)

1.Tab Benoit - Wetlands
2. Little Toby Walker - Cool Hand
3. James Cotton - 35th Anniversary Jam
4. Joe Louis Walker - In The Morning
5. Alice Stewart- Can't Find No Heaven
6. Derek Trucks - Joyful Noise
7. Shekemkia Copeland - Talking To Strangers
8. Delbert McClinton - Room To Breath
9. Cedell Davis - When Lighting Struck the Pine
10. Susan Tedeschi - Wait for Me


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

W.C. Clark1. W.C. Clark - From Austin With Soul -Alligator Records
2. Earnest Davis - Real Soul - Sims Records
3. Big Al Carson - Take Your Drunken Ass Home - Mardi Gras Records
4. Eddie Leon - Let Me In Your Arms Again - Leon Records
5. Sam Moore - Plenty Good Lovin' - Swing Cafe (UK)
6. Artie "Blues Boy" White - Can't Get Enough - Chilltown Records
7. Little Milton - Guitar Man - Malaco Records
8. Trudy Lynn - Memories Of You - Jus Blues Records
9. Eddie & Ernie - Lost Friends - Ace Records (UK)
10. Floyd Taylor - Legacy - Malaco Records


Graham Clarke
(Blues Bytes reviewer from Mississippi)

Favorite CD’s of 2002 (Compiled while wishing Santa would drop the new Magic Sam disc in my stocking).

1. Eddie CottonExtra (self-released):  It’s just stunning that he had to put this out himself!!!  Wake up, Blues labels!  Sign this kid now!
2. W. C. ClarkFrom Austin With Soul (Alligator):  Great blues/soul disc from Texas via Memphis.  Good to have Clark back on the recording scene again.
3. Joe Louis WalkerIn The Morning (Telarc):  Maybe his best since the Hightone days and just one of three solid releases in a busy year for Walker.
4. Corey HarrisDownhome Sophisticate (Rounder):  Harris is emerging as one of the most innovative musical talents in years with his uncanny ability to blend a variety of diverse styles.
5. Jody WilliamsReturn of a Legend (Evidence):  A welcome return to this legend that will leave you wanting more.  It’s hard to believe that he was off the circuit for so long.
6. Trudy LynnMemories of You (Jus Blues):  She’s never sounded better.
7. Floyd LeeMean Blues (Amogla):  Find this one.  You won’t be disappointed.  Look for his new one coming out shortly.  Why did it take so long for this man to record?
8. Lightnin’ Moe & the Peace DisturbersThings Go My Way (Cope):  Based in Denmark, This is a nice band with a good singer and lots of grit & passion.
9. Texas Johnny BrownBlues Defender (Choctaw Creek):  Some outstanding guitar and improved vocals make this one a keeper.
10. Snooks EaglinThe Way It Is (Money Pit):  This could be called the last great Black Top Records recording as it was Hammond & the late Naumann Scott’s final effort.  It features Eaglin with strong support from Jon Cleary and his Absolute Monster Gentlemen.
11. The Joe Richardson Express - Somelgesfel (Viewpoint):  Sorry, had to slip this one in.  This features more of the Express’s high energy Delta/Swamp Blues.  Great to listen to while driving on a lonely dirt road late at night.

Favorite Reissues of 2002 

1. B.B. KingThe Vintage Years (Ace):  Simply put, if you’re a fan of the Blues, you have to find some way to own this set.  This tells you all you need to know about the King of the Blues.
2. Luther AllisonPay It Forward (Ruf):  Set of alternate takes and unreleased sides featuring Luther and some of his friends.  A nice set that reminds me how much I miss Luther.
3. Mighty Joe YoungMighty Joe Young (Blind Pig):  Hats off to Blind Pig for making this available.  It captures two of Young’s best albums from the mid 70’s and showcases a criminally underrated artist.
4. Jimmy & Syl JohnsonTwo Johnsons are Better Than One (Evidence):  Technically a reissue since it was out on Britain’s Evangeline label in ’01, this is a team-up that should have been done years ago.
5. Fats DominoThe Fats Domino Jukebox (EMI):  For those who want the essential Fats tracks, but don’t want to buy the new box set, most of the essentials are here.  If you don’t have these, you should.


Benoît Bričre
(Blues Bytes reviewer from Montreal)


Solomon Burke

Don’t Give Up on Me

Fat Possum


Otis Taylor

Respect the Dead

Northern Blues


Shemekia Copeland

Talking to Strangers



Jody Williams

Return of a Legend




Balling the Jack – The Birth of the Nu-Blues



Harry Manx

Wise and Otherwise

Northern Blues


Cephas & Wiggins

Somebody Told the Truth



Larry Garner

Embarrassment to the Blues?



David Johansen & The Harry Smiths




The Derek Trucks Band

Joyful Noise



Mark Gallo
(Long-time reviewer from Michigan)

1. Lazy Lester: Blues Stop Knockin’; Antones.
2. Alice Stuart: Can’t Find No Heaven; Burnside.
3. Motor City Rhythm & Blues Pioneers; Blue Suit.
4. Alvin Youngblood Hart: Down in the Alley; Memphis International.
5. Duke Robillard: Living With the Blues; Stony Plain.
6. Eddie Burns: Snake Eyes; Delmark.
7. Bryan Lee: 6 String Therapy; Justin Time
8. John Sinclair & His Blues Scholars: Fattening Frogs for Snakes, Volume One – The Delta Sound; Okra-Tone
9. Coco Montoya: Can’t Look Back; Alligator
10. Ernie Hawkins: Mean Little Poodle; Say Mo Music
11. Doug Deming & The Jewel Tones: Double Down; Mighty Tiger
12. Kinzel & Hyde: Oklahoma Credit Card; (self produced)
13. Roy Rogers & Norton Buffalo: Roots of Our Nature; Blind Pig


Tim Holek
 (Blues Bytes reviewer from Canada)

Jack de Keyzer - 6 String Lover (Blue Star Records)
James Cotton - 35th Anniversary Jam (Telarc)
Syl and Jimmy Johnson - Two Johnsons Are Better Than One (Evidence)
Melvin Taylor - Rendevous With The Blues (Evidence)
Joe Louis Walker - In The Morning (Telarc)
Anthony Gomes - Unity (33rd Street Records)
NorthernBlues Gospel Allstars - Saved (NorthernBlues)
Holmes Brothers - Righteous (Rounder)
Jimmy Thackery - We Got It (Telarc)
Tab Benoit - Wetlands (Telarc)

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