Blues Bytes

Pick Hit

January 2006

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

Blues Bytes is now entering its ninth year --- it's been an incredible ride! An important fact to remember is that this site has continued despite the fact that no one involved with Blues Bytes gets paid for what they contribute. It's truly a labor of love for many blues lovers from around the world.

Thanks to all of you for your support!

- Bill Mitchell (Editor/Publisher of Blues Bytes)


Bill Mitchell (editor of Blues Bytes)

Johnny Dyer with Mark Hummel
Rolling Fork Revisited
(Mountaintop Productions)
Actually released in 2004, it received limited distribution and didn't hit most reviewers until 2005. Dyer, Hummel and a great group of backing musicians successfully recreate the vintage Muddy Waters sound without completely imitating it.

MaliVarious Artists
This look at what the roots of the blues sounds like today presents such a captivating array of artists from the West African nation of Mali that a copy of the CD is never far from my CD player. Superb music!

Bettye Lavette
I've Got My Own Hell To Raise
Her own hell to raise? Indeed, she does!

Harry Manx
Mantras For Madmen (Dog My Cat Records)
Canadian artist Manx sums up his unique blend of blues best with the following quote: "The way I see it, Blues is like the earth and Indian music is like the heaven. What I do is find the balance between the two."

Paul Oscher
Down In The Delta
(Blues Fidelity)
This former Muddy Waters band member seems to annually show up on my Top Ten list. In addition to this fine disc, he's also prominently featured on the Johnny Dyer / Mark Hummel tribute to Muddy (see above).

Tab Benoit
Fever For The Bayou
Louisiana guitarist continues to stay true to the music of the swamp region. For my money, there's no better contemporary blues artist around.

Marcia Ball
Live! Down The Road (Alligator)
Ms. Ball was in fine, fine form on this particular night in California. In retrospect, it's hard to listen to her beautiful version of Randy Newman's "Louisiana 1927" without thinking of those who lost their homes during the recent hurricanes.

Solomon Burke
Make Do With What You've Got (Shout Factory)
This CD from the venerable blues singer shows that he's still got it after all these years. The cover of Robbie Robertson's "It Makes No Difference" is worth the price of admission alone.

Dave Specter / Steve Freund
Is What It Is (Delmark)
A pair of noted guitarists collaborate on a fine collection of soulful blues, highlighted by a stunning version of Curtis Mayfield's "People Get Ready."

Jimi Bott
Cheap Thrills
(Roseleaf Records)
Long-time Southern California drummer, best known for his work with the Mighty Flyers, puts together a collection of tracks from his work with various ensembles. While it often showcases Bott's superb drumming, there's also a lot of great guitar and harmonica playing throughout.


Tim Holek (reviewer from Canada)

"These selections of CDs represent best new artist, album of the year, contemporary album of the year, soul-blues album of the year, and blues-rock album of the year. Here is my top ten in no particular order."

Duwayne Burnside and the Mississippi Mafia
Under Pressure (B.C. Records)
This disc proves Duwayne Burnside is one of the best young “real deal” blues guitarists and singers. Recorded in Clarksdale, Mississippi, the music is raw – just like the land and social climate from which it came. Though the fiery CD could have benefited from stronger production, this ain’t supposed to sound pretty, so what do you expect? Thanks to Duwayne Burnside, I feel the future of the blues is safe.

Shemekia Copeland
The Soul Truth (Alligator)
Baring her soul, via vocal expression, is a remarkable talent that Shemekia Copeland possesses. Miraculously, her vocals can sound sweet, mean, tender, and tough – all at the same time. The horns add polish, but some gnarling exists in the vocals and guitars. Don’t expect to hear a lot of blues. On The Soul Truth, Copeland crosses the line and transforms herself into a distinguished icon.

Little MiltonLittle Milton
Think of Me (Telarc)
Little Milton Campbell is a revered American musician, who passed away in 2005. This album proves that soul music and R&B can be relevant in the contemporary world. By looking closely in the country’s backyard, producers Jon Tiven and Randy Labbe located a national treasure. This is the soul/blues CD of the year, guaranteed.

Mem Shannon
I’m From Phunkville (NorthernBlues)
Mem Shannon’s melodies contain funk, jazz, and rock. At times, Shannon struggles to maintain his energy and your attention. But, the songs grow on you like swamp scum. There is not a lot of range in his calm baritone voice, but it integrates nicely with his jazz and blues fused music. Shannon’s deep and thoughtful lyrics are well planned and come loaded with meaning.

Tab Benoit
Fever For The Bayou (Telarc)
Tab Benoit’s approach is both urban and rural, giving the music new feelings, sounds, and behaviors. Using 11 songs, Benoit gallantly declares his Louisiana heredity. Via colorful lyrics, and welcoming rhythms, gravel-throated Benoit cooks up a roots music stew. Where else could such a disc have been recorded, but in New Orleans?

Julian Fauth
Songs Of Vice and Sorrow (Electro-Fi)
You’ll hear distinctive American sounds on this CD by one of Canada’s brightest new artists. Along a journey from the finest rehearsal hall to the roughest juke joint, Fauth’s barrelhouse piano rocks like a bed in a brothel, while his lyrics are filled with the pain and misery that bore the genre. A modern day mastermind on piano, Fauth is retro and progressive at the same time. Julian Fauth is a very interesting, inspiring, and talented new find.

Eric Clapton
Sessions For Robert J (Warner Reprise)
I profess to be an Eric Clapton fanatic. As such, I may have been a bit biased with this selection. However, this CD/DVD is everything that Me and Mr. Johnson should have been. I consider Sessions For Robert J as essential Clapton material.

Magic Slim
Anything Can Happen (Blind Pig)
Without a doubt, this unrefined live CD certifies Slim as one of the best and last electric Chicago blues guitarists. The music is so basic, it is bold. This is what blues is all about.

Eugene ‘Hideaway’ Bridges
Coming Home (Armadillo)
With silky vocals and smooth guitar, Eugene Bridges’ music makes you feel good. On this CD, he demonstrates he is capable of playing many styles of music. It is one of those albums that you listen to and ask, “Why isn’t this guy a music superstar?” Traditionally, blues musicians don’t fully mature until their senior years – Bridges is the exception.

Brian Blain
Overqualified For The Blues (NorthernBlues)
This folky debut by Canada’s Brian Blain is hard to categorize. Essentially, it is an acoustic CD. You will enjoy it if you are into any form of roots music. It won’t be long before Blain is considered in the same class as Rick Fines, Michael Jerome Brown, and Morgan Davis.


Alan Shutro (soul aficionado from Phoenix)


Bettye LavetteBettye Lavette
I've Got My Own Hell To Raise (Anti)
Bettye heads down a different path, and I'll follow her anywhere.

Heaven Davis
Steamy (Wildchild Davis Records)
A great release from a new soul diva. What independent releases are all about.

Bobby Wayne
Hit That Thing (Bonedog Records)
Real musicians, funky original songs, great vocals. Don't miss this one.

Bill Avery
Southern Fried Soul (Sound Mindz Records)
Great independent southern soul at it's best. Always in the CD player.

Don Varner
Finally Got Over (Shout - U.K.)
Definitive collection by this late, great deep soul singer. "Tear Stained Face" is a classic.

Percy Sledge
Shining Through The Rain (Varese Sarabande)
The legend is still turning out great releases.

Dorothy Moore
I'm Doing Alright (Farish Street Records)
Another welcome release from the "Misty Blue" lady.

Doris Duke
I'm A Loser (The Swamp Dogg Sessions) (Kent - U.K.)
One of deep soul's first great female singers. Her "To The Other Woman (I'm The Other Woman)" became the cheating song national anthem.

Solomon Burke
Make Do With What You've Got (Shout Factory)
Head and shoulders above his last release. Still a major star.

Bobby Purify
Better To Have It (Proper Records)
What a surprise from the remaining member of the 1960's Bobby & James Purify. A heartfelt release.

"A great 2006 awaits us."

Graham Clarke (reviewer from Mississippi)


Otis RushOtis Rush
All Your Love I Miss Loving: Live At the Wise Fool’s Pub, Chicago
Otis Rush at his best, with his working band in familiar surroundings. If you are into the blues, please tell me you already own this!

Campbell Brothers
Can You Feel It?
See review this month….If this one doesn’t light your fire, your wood’s wet!

Zac Harmon
The Blues According to Zacariah
Harmon is comfortable doing blues, soul, and gospel and this disc is a perfect display of his talents. Track it down if you can.

Bobby Purify
Better To Have It
A nice return for this artist…..and for Dan Penn & associates, too…..this is deep Southern soul just like they used to do it.

Alvin Youngblood Hart
Motivational Speaker
A powerful statement from Hart. He continues to break new ground with each release.

Ellis Hooks
Godson of Soul
Man, this disc put a hop in my step for a while.

Mary Flower
Bywater Dance
Recorded in New Orleans a couple of months before Katrina, this disc is a sobering reminder of what we had, what we’re missing right now, and what we hope to get back soon in the Crescent City.

Chris Cotton
I Watched The Devil Die
This was probably my favorite disc for the first half of the year. It sort of grabs hold of you and doesn’t let go.

Tracy Conover
Live! At The Cactus Moon
This is wonderful live disc of blues/rock guitar from a young lady who you’ll be hearing more about.

Mark Lemhouse
The Great American Yard Sale
An incredible second release; Lemhouse was already a formidable guitarist, but he really blossoms as a composer this time around.

Bruce Coen (reviewer from Louisiana)

'05 was a strange and difficult year for many. I can attest to that living in south Louisiana only 2 hours west from New Orleans. But the great sounds of the blues kept coming and coming. These are my favs for 2005 in no particular order.

Sonny LandrethSonny Landreth
Grant St.
A powerfully live CD from a truly unique slide guitarist.

Aaron Alnight
Devil in Disguise
Continuing with unique, here’s a singer and guitarist from the midwest who begs to be classified with his racy brand of the blues. Not for folks who easily get offended by provocative themes.

Harry Manx
Mantras for Madmen
Unique seems to be a trend here as Manx is considered a modern day troubadour who melds all kinds of styles, including blues and far eastern influenced sounds, into his own special brand of music.

Little Milton
Think of Me
Unfortunately, shortly after this fine collection of soul inspired blues hit the stores, Little Milton passed away leaving the blues world a bit more shy of the great talent and songwriting that he provided.

Phil Berkowitz
Louis’s Blues
Great harp work by a guy heavily influenced by the jump blues of one of the best, Louis Jordan. The tunes very much so jump out at you leaving you feeling pretty good.

Tab Benoit
Fever for the Bayou
Another super guitar player from the bayous of south Louisiana, Benoit has been making great blues for years.

Jimmy Thackery
Healing Ground
Always expect fantastic sounds from Thackery.

Dean Reichert
Misty’s Joint
This session guitarist and producer from the northwest breaks out on his own for a change and the results are wonderful.

Teresa James and the Rhythm Method
The Rhythm Method
Nicely realized piano boogie blues from Texan James now residing in So Cal.

Susan Tedeschi
Hope and Desire
I really dig this woman and her style of the blues. Her husband, phenomenal guitarist Derek Trucks, lends a hand or two.

One additional CD I would like to mention, though it’s not entirely blues, is Our New Orleans. This CD, featuring some of New Orleans’s best musicians, like Dr. John and Allen Toussaint, was recorded just a few weeks after Katrina. It exemplifies the resilient spirit that music has over the city and all its inhabitants. Please check it out.

Until next year at this time, keep listening to all the great blues that I know is just waiting to be released. Good listening to you.

Yours in the Blues, Bruce

Kyle Deibler (President of the Phoenix Blues Society)

Bettye Lavette
I’ve Got My Own Hell to Raise (Anti)
Bettye’s preview performance of this record at the Echo in LA was simply amazing.  This album should be the Blues Music Awards choice for Soul Blues album of the year.

Rod PiazzaRod Piazza & the Mighty Flyers
For the Chosen Who (Delta Groove Productions)
An overlooked album by all of the BMA nominators. This is probably the best Flyers album ever.  Proud to be amongst the Chosen Who.

Marcia Ball
Live! Down the Road (Alligator)
Great material. Great artist. Great live record.  Marcia is truly the reigning female singer of her generation.

Sister Monica
Can’t Keep a Good Woman Down (Mo Muscle Records)
Outstanding return to performing by an artist who went through her share of trials and tribulations.  You can’t help but want to get up and dance.

Down to the Rhythm (Blind Pig)
This is simply the best contemporary blues album of the year!  Innovative use of native Australian instruments and modern lyrical writing.  Harper’s best is yet to come.

Mitch Kashmar
Nickels & Dimes (Delta Groove Productions)
Just a strong, strong record.  Powerful harp playing and brilliant vocals.  Delta Groove Productions scores another outstanding record!

Shemekia Copeland
The Soul Truth (Alligator)
Wonderfully produced by Steve Cropper.  The addition of horns and Shemekia’s incredible vocals continue to highlight the growth of the finest female blues singer of this generation.

Robert Cray
Twenty (Sanctuary)
Just a great listen.  Robert and his band have truly produced a gem!

Keith B. Brown
Delta Soul (Raisin Music)
Slapped me upside my head and caught me completely by surprise. Keith B. does an amazing job of combining modern songwriting with brilliant interpretations of the masters.

The Billy Gibson Band
The Billy Gibson Band (Inside Sounds)
Billy and the boys have paid their dues in the heart of the Bluff city on Beale Street.  First class singing and performing make this a serious contender for the best new artist debut at the Blues Music Awards.



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