Blues Bytes

Pick Hit

January 2012

an associate


It's hard to believe we've been doing Blues Bytes for more than 15 years! As usual, we use the January Pick Hit to feature the reviewers' Top Ten Lists for the past year.

We couldn't do Blues Bytes without our team of dedicated reviewers, who year after year submit the wonderful reviews found on the pages of this site for one primary reason --- they love the blues! If you read a review that you like, send us an email and we'll forward your compliments on to that reviewer.

Thanks to all of you for your support! 

- Bill Mitchell (Editor/Publisher of Blues Bytes)


Bill Mitchell (editor of Blues Bytes)

Here's my list, which goes to a dozen CDs since I didn't know how to cut it any shorter. Enjoy!

1) Davina and the Vagabonds - Black Cloud (Roustabout Records)
This CD just plain blew me away when I first heard it. Davina is the best new singer I've heard in quite some time.

2) Big Joe and the Dynaflows - You Can't Keep A Big Man Down (Severn Records)
IIt was way too long between CDs for the D.C.-based Big Joe Maher but this one was worth waiting for. Retro jump blues at its best!

3) Sugar Ray & the Bluetones - Evening (Severn Records)
Blues harmonica veteran Sugar Ray does it up right with this fine release. It's good solid blues with a touch of soul and jazz.

4) Los Fabulocos - Dos (Delta Groove)
Traditional Mexican music meets the blues on this CD that just refuses to leave my rotation of driving music. Guitarist Kid Ramos comes on-board as guest guitarist. Sure, it's not all blues, but I'm not complaining!

5) Johnny Rawls - Memphis Still Got Soul (Catfood Records)
There are few blues cats out there that can sing soul as well as Rawls, so it's great to hear him pay tribute to the classic Memphis sound.

6) Samantha Fish - Runaway (Ruf Records)
Ruf did a very good job this year in bringing forth several excellent woman blues guitarists, with Fish's debut solo release being quite the revelation.

7) Marcia Ball - Roadside Attraction (Alligator Records)
Is it possible for the engaging Ms. Ball to release a new CD without it showing up on a Top Ten list???

8) Pete Anderson - Even Things Up (Little Dog Records)
Noted country / roots rock guitarist takes on the blues with excellent results. It was a great way to kick off 2011!

9) Dana Fuchs - Love To Beg (Ruf Records)
I called her a major talent on the rise ... and I meant it! Be sure to check out her soulful, rockin' style of blues.

10) Dani Wilde - Shine (Ruf Records)
Wilde's second CD is a keeper. With room to grow as an artist, this one could be a big star in a few years.

11) Darren Watson - Saint Hilda's Faithless Boy (Red Rocks Records)
Obscure artist alert! Watson is just a little outside the normal blues circuit, instead hailing from New Zealand. But this is the second CD from him that I've loved.

12) James Armstrong - Blues At The Border (Catfood Records)
Welcome back, James!

... and one more. My list was complete until I was editing the submissions of the other reviews, and noticed that the Bo-Keys had a new disk, Got To Get Back! (Redeye Records). I quickly downloaded it and have been grooving to it ever since!


Terry Clear (reviewer from Spain)

Shar Baby - 11 O’Clock Blues (Blues DigitDoc Records)

Grady Champion - Dreamin’ (GSM Music Group)

Big Joe and the Dynaflows - You Can't Keep A Big Man Down (Severn Records)

Kenny “Blues Boss” Wayne - An Old Rock on a Roll (Stony Plain Records)

Ian Siegal - The Skinny (Nugene Records)

Rory Block - Shake ‘Em on Down (Stony Plain Records)

Richard Ray Farrell - I Sing The Blues Eclectic (Blue Beet Records)

Marcia Ball - Roadside Attractions (Alligator Records)

Susan Wylde - In The Light (Sun, Moon & Stars Entertainment)

Fred Sanders - I Believe (I55 Productions)



Tim Holek (reviewer from Canada)

Eugene "Hideaway" Bridges - Rock and A Hard Place (Armadillo)

Toronzo Cannon - Leaving Mood (Delmark Records)

Travis "Moonchild" Haddix - Old Man In Love (Benevolent Blues)

The Bo-Keys - Got To Get Back! (Redeye Records)

Marcia Ball - Roadside Attractions (Alligator Records)

Johnny SansoneThe Lord Is Waiting The Devil Is Too

Chick Willis – Mr. Blues The Best Of So Far… (Benevolent Blues)

Mac Arnold’s Blues Revival – Live at The Grey Eagle (2010 Plantation One Records)

Roomful of Blues – Hook, Line & Sinker (Alligator Records)

Various Artists – Alligator Records 40th Anniversary Collection (Alligator Records)

--- Tim Holek
Freelance Journalist (
Great Lakes Blues Society Media Relations Coordinator (


Graham Clarke (reviewer from Mississippi)

To me, this was a great year for new releases. It seems like the My Top Ten releases for 2011 (in no particular order):

Mistakes Were Made: Five Years of Raw Blues, Damaged Livers, & Questionable Business Decisions (A Broke & Hungry Retrospective) (Broke & Hungry): While it certainly qualifies for Longest Title of the Year, this retrospective was no mere compilation of past glories. Over half of the tunes included were previously unreleased and many were just as good as the tunes that B&H had previously released. Proof positive that those Delta blues are still alive and thriving.

Gregg AllmanLow Country Blues (Rounder): Gregg Allman’s first solo recording in 14 years is heavy on covers of classic blues tunes from Muddy Waters, Otis Rush, B.B. King, Sleepy John Estes, and others. This is the blues recording that his fans knew he had in him.

Chicago Blues: A Living History-The (R)evolution Continues (Raisin): This set picks up where its predecessor left off, reprising some of the Windy City’s finest recordings. Billy Boy Arnold, Billy Branch, Lurrie Bell, John Primer, and Carlos Johnson are back, with able assistance from Buddy Guy, Zora Young, James Cotton, Magic Slim, and Ronnie Baker Brooks. Just sit back and take it all in.

Grady ChampionDreamin’ (GSM Music): Mr. Champion has been knocking on the door for a while now. With Dreamin’, he just kicked the door in. This is contemporary Mississippi blues at its finest.

Toronzo CannonLeaving Mood (Delmark): I probably listened to this CD more than any other this year. This is a dazzling set of original tunes with some inspired performances that is still getting a lot of playing time at my house.

James ArmstrongBlues at the Border (Catfood): There were several outstanding releases on Johnny Rawls’ label this year, but Armstrong was a welcome return. His latest has more of an R&B leaning than his previous efforts, but, man, it’s great to have him back.

D’Mar & GillReal Good Friend (Airtight): Trust me when I say that you haven’t heard anything quite like this disc. Chris Gill plays traditional blues with assistance from Derrick “D’Mar” Martin’s irresistible African-based percussion and the blues may never be the same.

Elam McKnight/Bob BogdalZombie Nation (Desert Highway): The force of nature that is Elam McKnight teams up with harmonica monster Bob Bogdal for a scorching set of Delta/Hill Country magic. Better wear your helmet for this one.

John+Alex MasonJook Joint Thunderclap (Naked Jaybird): Mason ordinarily performed solo on his releases, but this time around he was in wonderful company, teaming with Cedric and Cody Burnside, Lightnin’ Malcolm, and a trio of musicians from Guinea. This was an amazing release that indicated great things ahead for Mason, who tragically passed away at the end of the year.

Stevie JThe Diversity Project (Blue Skunk Music): A double CD set, one set focusing on electric blues, and the other set focusing on Southern soul. It’s safe to say that Mr. Johnson has a firm grip on both styles. This is a well-done, ambitious set that deserves to be heard.

Honorable Mention: Brad Vickers & His VestapolitansTraveling Mood (Man-Hat-Tone), Pete HerzogSteel Guitar: A Blues Opera, Johnny RawlsMemphis Still Got Soul (Catfood), Lightnin’ MalcolmRenegade (Ruf), Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn BandPeyton on Patton (SideOneDummy).


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

2011 was a stellar year for Blues releases, and here are my top ten (11) in no particular order:

The Tedeschi Trucks BandRevelator (Sony Masterworks)
A fine disc from Susan & Derek. They maximize the talents of their big band to the fullest and there’s more to come.

Johnny WinterRoots (Megaforce)
Thanks to the astute care from Paul Nelson, Johnny is playing and performing at a high level again.

Johnny Sansonethe lord is waiting and the devil is to
This disc from Johnny caught a lot of people by surprise at the artistic choices and chances he took with this disc. Outstanding effort.

Beth Hart & Joe BonamassaDon’t Explain (J&R Adventures)
Very strong record highlighted by Beth’s soulful vocals and very expressive playing from one Joe Bonamassa.

Hadden SayerHard Dollar (Blue Corn Music)
Classic Texas Blues from Hadden who definitely opened some eyes with this disc. The duet with Ruthie Foster, “Back to the Blues”, is up for song of the year.

Marcia BallRoadside Attractions (Alligator Records)
Outstanding writing & performances from Marcia make this one of her best ever. Definitely a favorite.

Eugene Hideaway BridgesRock and a Hard Place (Armadillo)
Wonderful release from Eugene that caught some people by surprise.

Johnny RawlsMemphis Still Got Soul (Catfood Records)
Mr. Rawls has been very busy putting out some of his best work ever or his last three releases. This may be the best of the three.

Sugar Ray & the BluetonesEvening (Severn Records)
Simply a stellar effort from this former front man for Room Full of Blues, rewarded with 5 Blues Music Award Nominations.

Tab BenoitMedicine (Telarc)
Ably assisted by Anders Osborne, Medicine is some of Tab’s best work yet.

Trampled Under FootWrong Side of the Blues (Vizzitone)
Those of us who watched TUF win the IBC have been infected with their enthusiasm for the Blues. Producer Tony Braunagel worked his magic with this disc.

Other Discs of Note:
Davina & the VagabondsBlack Cloud, Brick FieldsGospel Blue, Lloyd JonesHighway Bound and Greg AllmanLow Country Blues.



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