Blues Bytes

Pick Hit

January 2008

an associate


In this our 11th year of Blues Bytes, we use the January Pick Hit to feature the reviewers' Top Ten Lists for the past year.

It's been another great year for Blues Bytes, as we continue to attract visitors from around the world.

It's important to recognize our fleet of volunteer reviewers, who year after year submit the wonderful reviews found on the pages of this site for one primary reason --- they love the blues!

Thanks to all of you for your support!

- Bill Mitchell (Editor/Publisher of Blues Bytes)


Bill Mitchell (editor of Blues Bytes)

Roxanne PotvinRoxanne Potvin
The Way It Feels
Superb album showcasing a variety of blues styles from this young Canadian guitarist/singer. I've listened to this disc more than any other in the past year.

Carolina Chocolate Drops
Dona Got A Ramblin' Mind
(Music Makers)
The Carolina Chocolate Drops would get props just for reviving a long-forgotten blues style, but their Piedmont/Appalachian string band music is so infectious that I can't stop listening to it.

The Holmes Brothers
State of Grace
Nearly 20 years after their first national release, The Holmes Brothers are still the most unique and innovative blues band on the scene. This disc mixes in a little more old timey and country gospel into the usual blend of blues and soul for another gold star on their recording résumé.

Nappy Brown
Long Time Coming
(Blind Pig)
Veteran blues shouter shows that he's still got a lot left in the tank with this wonderful album. Triumphant return, indeed!

Rod Piazza & the Mighty Flyers Blues Quartet
ThrillVille (Delta Groove)
Another great release, this one weighted a little more heavily to the Chicago blues, from the best touring band in the world.

Big Pete Pearson
I'm Here Baby (Blue Witch)
Longtime Phoenix, Arizona singer keeps coming back from retirement, and ironically sounds better each time.

John Németh
Magic Touch
(Blind Pig)
It's not his debut album, but few of us knew much about Németh before this fine release. The buoyant "Blue Broadway" is worth the price alone.

James Hinkle
Blues Now, Jazz Later
Texas guitarist Hinkle, who spent a lot of years in Marcia Ball's band, steps to the front with this tasty album that seamlessly blends a number of blues and jazz styles.

Tad Robinson
A New Point of View (Severn)
It took a while for this disc to grow on me, as it didn't quite measure up to the standards of Robinson's previous release, Did You Ever Wonder? But this mixture of blues and gritty soul is still topnotch stuff and worthy of being ranked in the top ten.

Jimmy Hall
Build Your Own Fire (Zoho Roots)
The former Wet Willie frontman put out a nice tribute to the music of the late Eddie Hinton. For my money, the alternate version of "Salty," previously a hit for Bobby Womack, was the best song of the year. Greg Martin's sitar playing really puts this one over the top.


Tim Holek (reviewer from Canada)

For me, the best releases of 2007 came from veteran artists as well as a fairly new singer/harp player, my favorite horn player, and one of Canada’s best guitarists. Here is my top ten of 2007, in no particular order.

Fruteland Jackson
Tell Me What You Say (E-fi 3401)

Fruteland Jackson gets totally absorbed in his blues which aren’t overly complex. Some may simplify the musically trained artist’s style as front porch or back porch music. His acoustic story-telling blues are calming, and he delivers them as if each listener is one of his personal friends. This CD’s standout guest is the phenomenal multi-instrumentalist Chris Whiteley. Throughout 53-minutes, Fruteland Jackson is plugged into his feelings and admirations of the sacrifices of others, whether they are strangers or family members. Tell Me What You Say brightens the fading American art form known as acoustic blues.

Koko Taylor
Old School (Alligator ALCD)

Given the facts that The Queen Of The Blues had a close brush with death and months in hospital in late 2003 and 2004, the fact that she is still “Fixing to go to work” (as she says) at age 78 is amazing. Even more remarkable is the strength of her vocals and songwriting skills on Old School. She wrote five vibrant originals and chose seven others with a special meaning to her. The music on this disc comes with power, forcefulness, and a certain sexiness.

With bellowing vocals and an unquestionable Chicago blues technique, Old School contains the classic Taylor sound. I initially thought this CD had missed its mark of being an old school blues record because it is quite contemporary sounding. Upon realizing the goal was to create a blues record in the spirit of old school blues, I can honestly say the goal was exceeded two fold.

Jimmy Burns
Live at B.L.U.E.S. (Delmark DE 789)

I love this tiny north side Chicago club, but it’s not the best place to film a performance. Patrons innocently get in the way of some of the views, yet this may make you feel as if you are among the crowd. Recorded August 13, 2006, the live onstage footage is interspersed with bartenders making drinks, the club’s walls and the photos that adorn, outside shots of the club, and club’s backyard BBQ party.

With a gentle approach, Jimmy Burns, who was born in Dublin, Mississippi, is the least Chicago blues-sounding artist of the last remaining Chicago blues greats. There is nothing flashy here; it’s just great down home music. The 12 songs, including four which do not appear on his three previous Delmark releases, are consistently sharp.

The video and audio are both crystal clear. As an added bonus there is an audio commentary which reveals a lot about Burns and his music, e.g., he has two children and creates his own bottlenecks, which he uses to play slide guitar. This release is also available on CD.

Big James
Thank God I Got The Blues (Jamot Music)

It’s well-documented that Chicago is the home of the blues. Less attention has been given to its soul music era. On Thank God I Got The Blues, Big James Montgomery revives his hometown’s contributions to soul music. Montgomery has a love for this music and a dedication to it that he can’t explain. His three previous discs were self-produced. This time Andrew Garver was brought in to produce and design.

With rumbling trombone and tightly arranged horns, Montgomery’s strength lies in the performances of contemporary soul/blues songs. The strength of this CD comes from Garver’s skillful production, hulking horns, and Montgomery’s exemplary band, the Chicago Playboys. Garver has captured these merry making reedmen and their danceable songs sounding like they are performing live. This is the best looking and sounding disc of Montgomery’s career.

John Németh
Magic Touch (Blind Pig BPCD 5109)

There is a lot of Texas to be found on John Németh’s Blind Pig debut Magic Touch. It was recorded in Austin, Texas, and there are contributions from The Texas Horns, Anson Funderburgh, and several of his band members. Németh’s impressive and pleasant vocals receive the spotlight and there are several highlights. The sultry shuffle Magic Touch heats things up. It’s a butt rockin’ Texas blues in the mode of The Fab T-Birds. Musically, Blue Broadway is arranged similar to Robert Cray’s Midnight Stroll era.

An energized band was assembled for this polished record. The 12 songs – including seven originals – are loaded with positive energy. It’s thrilling to hear a Blind Pig offering that’s more aligned with their roots than most of their latest releases. Magic Touch may not create a greater audience for the genre, but it gives hope that blues will survive.

The Mannish Boys
Big Plans (Delta Groove DGPCD 116)

The Mannish Boys feature the cream of West Coast blues. The format of this CD is similar to their previous two in that it is another old-style 'blues revue'. Spearheading the blues super group are potent singers, Finis Tasby and Johnny Dyer. Throughout the guitars of Kid Ramos and Kirk “Eli” Fletcher are razor sharp and impeccably timed. As a bonus, there is a multitude of special guests. The Mannish Boys continue to reign as one of the best real deal blues bands on the circuit.

Magic Slim
The Essential Magic Slim (Blind Pig BPCD 8009)

Magic Slim has been called the greatest living proponent of electrified Mississippi-to-Chicago blues. Quite simply, this CD proves that perception is an actual fact. This budget-priced collection spans Slim’s 18 year relationship with Blind Pig and includes some of his best recordings.

Lurrie Bell
Let’s Talk About Love (Aria B.G. ABG1)

A few years ago, Lurrie Bell re-emerged on the blues scene and he took it by storm. On his first solo release in eight years, his guitar solos aren’t played lightening fast nor do they contain an exorbitant amount of notes, they are just dripping in emotion. The disc is a personal triumph for Bell. Tragically, over the past year, Lurrie’s wife Susan and father Carey both passed away. Here, Lurrie proves to be stronger and more determined than a Phoenix. This CD reaffirms Lurrie to be the most competent and controlled blues guitar player on the scene today.

Dave Riley and Bob Corritore
Travelin’ The Dirt Road (Blue Witch BWR 104)

Guitar player/sing Dave Riley and harmonica player Bob Corritore take you on a musical journey through the Delta. Natural blues chemistry exists between these two experienced musicians. Riley’s gritty vocals and down home guitar are the perfect match for Corritore’s passionate and full-toned harp. This is what Delta blues is supposed to sound like.

Jack de Keyzer
Blues Thing (Blue Star CD 2506)

Canada’s Jack de Keyzer is a rare breed who can play it all: blues, funk, swing, and more. You’ll hear all of those styles on this CD. Here, his music has matured and his guitar tone has become one of the finest in Canada. Jack de Keyzer is a well rounded musician, who strives for perfection and attains it on this excellent CD.


Graham Clarke (reviewer from Mississippi)

My top 10 CDs for 2007 (in no particular order):

Terry “Big T” Williams and Wesley “Junebug” Jefferson
Meet Me In The Cotton Field (Broke & Hungry)
A timeless trip through the Mississippi Delta, you’ll feel the mud squeeze between your toes when you listen to this one.

Bobby Rush
Raw (Deep Rush)
The veteran soul/blues star goes it alone and unplugged with impressive results.

Eddie Cotton, Jr.
Live Back At the Alamo Theatre (self-released)
It’s hard to find, but worth seeking out. A little slicker and funkier than its predecessor, it’s a wonderful look at an up and coming blues artist who can’t seem to catch a break in getting his product out for the public to enjoy.

Jimmy “Duck” Holmes
Done Got Tired of Tryin’ (Broke & Hungry)
Holmes’ follow-up is on par with his stunning debut of 2006. Broke & Hungry is doing the blues world a wonderful service in getting these obscure Mississippi bluesmen out there for public consumption. Do your best to support their efforts.

Carolina Chocolate Drops
Dona Got A Ramblin’ Mind (Music Maker)
This youthful trio has done a noble thing in almost single-handedly resurrecting the archaic African-American string band tradition.

Mem Shannon
Live, A Night At Tipitina’s (NorthernBlues)
Not just a gifted composer, Shannon and his band, the Membership, lay down some heavy funk for a lucky New Orleans audience.

Omar Keith Dykes and Jimmie Vaughan
On The Jimmy Reed Highway (Ruf)
While it is a tribute disc, Dykes and Vaughan capture the spirit of the original Reed recordings without making it a note-by-note reproduction. Great performances.

Toni Price
Talk Memphis (Antone’s)
Price’s best release yet…..a soulful journey to the Bluff City by way of Texas. She’s never sounded better.

Betty Harris
Intuition (Evidence)
The surprise of the year, Harris emerges from a 30 year “retirement” and shows she’s still got plenty to offer.

Elam McKnight
Supa Good (Desert Highway)
An amped-up take on Hill Country Blues, this one will put a hop in your step. Somewhere in Blues Heaven, R.L. Burnside is smiling.

Next 10….also deserving of mention: Watermelon SlimThe Wheel Man (NorthernBlues), The Matt Schofield Trio Ear To The Ground (Nugene), Malkum Gibson & the Mighty JukeIt’s Gonna Be Alright (Handlebar Productions), Hope Waits (Radarproof), Jook BourkeJust A Minute (self-released), Texas Northside Kings (Dialtone), Corey StevensAlbertville (Ruf), Mojo Watson18th and Agnes (Watashea), Ronnie EarlHope Radio (Stony Plain), Bob MargolinIn North Carolina (Steady Rollin’).


Alan Shutro (soul aficionado from Phoenix)


Although 2007 was a good year for blues releases, the category of soul/blues only had a few great releases that crossed this desk. There were though a great batch of import reissues. I've listed many of these along with the domestic releases.

1. Bettye LaVette - The Scene of The Crime- Anti Records
Bettye tops my list with by far the best new release of the year. I'm sure many will agree with this top pick.

2. Tommy Tate - I'm So Satisfied - The Complete KoKo Recordings - Kent U.K.
One of the great artists from the early 70's. One of Johnny Rawls' favorite performers.

3. Z.Z. Hill Jr. - Goin' To Mississippi - Delta Roots
Quite a surprise. Didn't even know there was a Jr. A fun release.

4. Barbara & The Browns - Can't Find Happiness - The Sounds of Memphis Recordings- Kent U.K.
Classic Southern Soul with that early Stax sound.

5. Ryan Shaw - This Is Ryan Shaw - Columbia Records
A great new vocalist in the Bobby Womack tradition. Should be a star.

6. Larry Banks - Soul Family Album - Kent U.K.
Husband and writer/producer of the Bessie Banks classic "Go Now" (buries the Moody Blues). Covers all aspects of his career.

7. Denise La Salle - Pay Before You Pump - Ecko Records
The ageless LaSalle rolls right along. Mississippi Woman a great track for her.

8. Floyd Taylor - You Still Got It - Malaco
Another strong release from Johnnie's son carries on the Taylor tradition.

9. Roscoe Shelton - Save Me - SPV
The very last of the Bluesland / Cannonball recordings. The late, the great, the missed........

10. Thelma Houston - A Woman's Touch - Shout Records
Back with her first album in 17 years. Soulful versions of songs first laid down by her favorite male singers from Al Green to Sting.


Mark E. Gallo (reviewer from Michigan)

1.Ronnie Earl & The Broadcasters
Hope Radio (Stony Plain)
One of the finest guitarists on the scene since he hit the public radar with Roomful of Blues in the 1980s, Earl continues to dazzle with each successive release. This fourth release on Stony Plain is again a jazzy bluesy affair that just dazzles.

2.Juke Logan
The Chill (Re-Chilled) (Mocambo)
Technically, this might be a re-issue, but the tunes have been tightened up and new material added since the original 1995 release – and it’s just an astounding set of music by the king of the Blues in Southern California.

3.Sugar Ray & The Bluetones
My Life, My Friends, My Music (Severn)
Sugar Ray’s been putting out quality music for 30 years, including the years with Ronnie Earl’s bands in the 1980s and fronting Roomful of Blues in the 1990s. The Bluetones has been his own project since ’89 and he just gets more extraordinary by the year.

4.Koko Taylor
Old School (Alligator)
Koko’s made nine extraordinary albums for Alligator over the years. This first recording since 2000 is the best of the pack. This is Koko’s roots music and it kicks butt gloriously. Already being considered for a Grammy!

5.Tad Robinson
A New Point of View (Severn)
Robinson may be the best blues singer this side of Johnny Adams, which is the highest praise from these quarters. Chops and passion guarantee that Tad will go down in history as one of the greats.

6.Bryan Lee
Katrina Was Her Name (Justin Time)
The New Orleans-based guitarist-vocalist is as funky as Snooks Eaglin with a bit more electricity and has a band that just won’t quit. The title cut is barebones, the rest is on fire.

7.Root Doctor
Change Our Ways (Big O)
This is a super-charged funk-fueled band that deserves way more national attention than it has gotten to date. Vocalist Freddie Cunningham is a force of nature and the four men that share the stage with him are equally impressive.

8.Eugene Hideaway Bridges
Bridges has a voice seeped in the gospel tones of Sam Cooke. Add former Asleep at the Wheel steel player Lucky Oceans and the category-defying result is spectacular.

9.Sharrie Williams
I’m Here To Stay (Electro-Fi)
Powerful vocals in the style of Shemekia Copeland with more than a nod to Etta James. Everything about Williams says she’s definitely here to stay.

10.Teresa James & The Rhythm Tramps
All Time Low; New Light
James reminds at times of an unbridled Maria Muldaur – grit and chops and passion for days. This is an independent release that just knocks these ears on their ass.

Best Reissues:
John Lee Hooker
Best of Friends (Shout)
All of the John Lee Hookers that Shout re-issued this year are vital.

Duke Robillard
Duke’s Blues (Stony Plain)


Kyle Deibler (President of the Phoenix Blues Society and regular Blues Bytes reviewer)

Nappy Brown
Long Time Coming
Just a wonderful, wonderful record by Nappy. A number of wonderful contributors all lined up to support this amazing blues legend.

Bettye Lavette
Scene of the Crime
Another brilliant record by Bettye!! Bettye’s last three albums have been classics and this may very well be the best of the lot.

Tab Benoit
Power of the Ponchartrain
Tab’s second record with Louisiana Leroux. Another great album by the Blues Music Award-winning entertainer of the year!

Mannish Boys
Big Plans
Delta Groove’s finely tuned signature group puts out their finest record to date.

Rod Piazza and The Mighty Flyers Blues Quartet
Outstanding record from the MFBQ! Rod’s at the helm as producer and this is more than a worthy successor to For the Chosen Who.

Jerry Lawson/Talk of the Town
Self-titled release that marks Jerry’s return to a capella with an amazing new group behind. This record has a little bit of everything and is a joy to listen to.

John Németh
Magic Touch
Amazing debut record for John on Blind Pig records. Produced by Anson Funderburgh, this record is top shelf from beginning to end. A brilliant record by this year’s emerging new artist!

JJ Grey & Mofro
Country Ghetto
Southern soul, blues, rock and funk are all melded into a record that is everything you could ask for. Brilliant songwriting by JJ Grey and a tight sound that appeals to all generations.

Phillip Walker
Going Back Home
Surrounded by a cast of players from the Delta Groove family, Phillip goes back home to the Texas Gulf and comes up with one of the year’s best records.

Ronnie Earl
Hope Radio
Probably the finest guitar player on the planet. Hope Radio is another brilliant instrumental record from an artist who sadly no longer tours. His performance at the Rhythm Room here in Phoenix years ago was one of the best I’ve ever witnessed.

Dave Hole
Rough Diamond
A long awaited record from this Australian bluesman and master of the slide guitar. Great songwriting and a tight band produce an excellent record. Could not leave it off my top ten(11) list for 2007!


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