Blues Bytes

Pick Hit

January 2015

an associate


We've now been publishing Blues Bytes for 18 years. It seems like only yesterday that the first issue came out --- wow! As with every previous year, 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)

Mud Morganfield and Kim Wilson

Here's my list of ten favorite CDs from 2014. Enjoy!

1) Mud Morganfield and Kim Wison - For Pops (Severn Records)
Morganfield pays tribute to his famous father, Muddy Waters, with help from Kim Wilson, who sounds just like Little Walter on every tune. It's almost like Muddy came back for one more album.

2) Knickerbocker All-Stars - Open Mic at the Knick (CD Baby)
Probably the year's biggest surprise -- a great ensemble of blues cats getting together to make great music.

3) The Holmes Brothers - Brotherhood (Alligator Records)
This one's now a little bittersweet with the recent passing of drummer / singer Popsy Dixon. RIP Popsy.

4) Johnny Rawls and Otis Clay - Soul Brothers (Catfood Records)
Two stalwarts of the blues and soul genre teaming up for 10 excellent cuts --- of course it's on my top ten list!

5) Marcia Ball - The Tattooed Lady & the Alligator Man (Alligator Records)
Every album from Marcia is certainly worthy of acclaim, and this one's no different.

6) Ruthie Foster - Promise of a Brand New Day (Blue Corn Music)
Inspiring mix of soul, blues and gospel from an Austin, Texas regular.

7) Jarekus Singleton - Refuse To Lose (Alligator Records)
Sophomore release from former basketball player builds on the promise he showed with his first release, Heartfelt.

8) Rob Stone - Gotta Keep Rollin' (Vizz Tone)
Old school blues done right, with special guests like Eddie Shaw, John Primer, Henry Gray , David Maxwell, and others.

9) Arthur Migliazza - Laying It Down (CD Baby)
Exciting disc of original and blues piano classics from one of the young artists on the scene.

10) Rod Piazza & the Mighty Flyers - Emergency Situation (Blind Pig Records)
The Mighty Flyers are consistently one of the best live bands around.


Tim Holek (reviewer and freelance journalist from Canada)

Elvin BishopThe following list is in no particular order and it represents several styles of blues including: acoustic, new artist, contemporary, soul/blues, and traditional blues.

Rip Lee PryorNobody But Me (Electro-Fi)
Elvin BishopCan’t Even Do Wrong Right (Alligator)
Rick Estrin and the Nightcats - You Asked For It Live (Alligator)
Ronnie Earl and the BroadcastersGood News (Stony Plain)
Selwyn BirchwoodDon’t Call No Ambulance (Alligator)
Joe Louis Walker Hornet’s Nest (Alligator)
Mississippi HeatWarning Shot (Delmark)
Vaneese ThomasBlues For My Father (Segue)
Mark Hummel with Little Charlie Baty and Anson Funderburgh The Hustle Is Really On (Electro-Fi)
Billy Boy ArnoldThe Blues Soul of Billy Boy Arnold (Stony Plain)


Mark E. Gallo (reviewer from Michigan)

Mannish Boys1. Mannish Boys: Wrapped Up and Ready. Seems like they're perpetually at the top of my list, but the best straight up blues band in the land continues to impress.

2. Steve Krase: Buckle Up (Conner Ray Music). High energy blues from a hard blowing harmonica man.

3. Austin Walkin' Cane: One Heart Walkin'. Edgy. Not your daddy's blues for sure. Fantastic disc.

4. Dave & Phil Alvin: Common Ground – Play the Songs of Big Bill Broonzy (Rounder). The outstanding traditional blues disc of the year from the Blasters brothers.

5. John Nemeth: Memphis Grease. Greasy sometimes, but just flat out soulful and bloozy.

6. Steve Dawson: Rattlesnake Cage (Black Hen). Fingerpicking instrumental album from a master

7. EG Kight: A New Day. She never makes a bad album. This may be her best.

8. Sugar Ray & The Bluetones: Living Tear to Tear. Sugar Ray Norcia is one of a handful of great voices in the blues, on a par with Jimmy Rushing. His band is equal to the task.

9. Keb Mo: BluesAmericana. One of the most upbeat bluesmen even when the lyrics suggest otherwise.

10. Holmes Brothers. Brotherhood. How sad to hear that Popsy Dixon died in January. Gospel-tinged (but only tinged) vocals from three enthisiastic and talented men.

Tied for 11th: Tommy Castro, Root Doctor, Mark Hummel, Janiva Magness, Charlie Musselwhite, Marcia Ball, and Damon Fowler.

Graham Clarke (reviewer from Mississippi)

James ArmstrongTop Ten Blues CDs for 2014 (in no particular order):

James ArmstrongGuitar Angels (Catfood): So good to have Armstrong back in the studio on a regular basis, sounding better than ever.

Tweed FunkFirst Name Lucky (Tweed Tone): Excellent effort from one of the dynamic Milwaukee band with their rowdy mix of blues, funk, and soul.

Dave KellerSoul Changes (Tastee -Tone): A powerful set of soul originals and covers with Keller, one of the best soul singers currently practicing, splitting time between Memphis (backed by the Hi Rhythm Section) and Brooklyn.

Jimmy “Duck” Holmes & Terry “Harmonica” BeanTwice As Hard (Broke & Hungry): A fantastic collaboration between two of Mississippi’s finest blues artists.

Andy T & Nick NixonLivin’ It Up (Delta Groove): Guitarist Andy T. & vocalist Nixon bring to mind those great Anson Funderburgh (who produced this disc)/Sam Myers Black Top releases way back in the ’80s and ’90s.

Giles CoreyGiles Corey’s Stoned Soul (Delmark): Modern blues at its finest, mixing blues, rock, and funk in equal doses.

Grady ChampionBootleg Whiskey (Malaco): Champion’s debut release for Malaco is his best yet, showcasing his talents as a songwriter and performer. He’s the real deal, folks!

Johnny Rawls & Otis ClaySoul Brothers (Catfood): A musical feast for soul music lovers.

Devon AllmanRagged & Dirty (Ruf): Allman teams up with some of Chicago’s finest musicians for this standout blues rocker.

Daddy Mack Blues BandBlues Central (Inside Sounds): Another typically fine set from this standout Memphis band.


Kyle Deibler (Regular Blues Bytes reviewer now living in Colorado)

1.Janiva Magness Janiva Magness - Original. Perhaps no artist in the country took a bigger leap of faith than Janiva did in 2014. She split amicably from Alligator Records and chose to put her new record, Original, out on her own label. The result is an intensely personal record that freed Janiva and her band up to do what they do best, put on an amazing live show. Well done, Janiva!

2. John Nemeth - Memphis Grease. I talked with John before this disc ever came out and he was extremely proud of his collaboration with the Bo-Keys to put out what I consider to be the best Soul Blues release of the year. Amazing songwriting and just an excellent disc from the first cut to the last.

3. Joe Louis Walker - Hornet's Nest. Probably my favorite Joe Louis Walker disc to date. High energy, amazing riffs, great tunes! A stellar release from Joe Louis Walker.

4. Marcia Ball - The Tattooed Lady and the Alligator Man. Classic Marcia Ball and a real treat for fans of her music. This one shows up in my CD player a lot.

5. Dave Alvin & Phil Alvin - Common Ground - Play and Sing the Songs of Bill Broonzy. An amazing disc, Grammy nominated and in the running for a BMA for Acoustic Record of the Year.\

6. Johnny Winter - Step Back. Johnny's final record and one that will serve as a fitting reminder of the great talent that he possessed. Johnny is one artist we lost way too soon.

7. Eden Brent - Jigsaw Heart. Eden remains one of my favorite female songwriters and this disc is a highly personal reflection on the current life of Little Boogaloo. She just gets better and better.

8. The Holmes Brothers - Brotherhood. A beautiful record from the Holmes Brothers and it's a testament to the strength of albums released this year that theirs lands on my list at number 8.

9. Walter Trout - The Blues Came Callin'. Walter and his wife Marie have endured an tremendous year of hardships that ultimately has resulted in the rejuvenation of one of my favorite artists. This disc was highly personal for him and one of my favorite discs of Walter's. Looking forward to seeing Walter back on stage in 2015.

10. Jeff Strahan - Monkey Around. Jeff and his wife Lois are two of my dearest friends on the planet and we've known each other for many years now. We lost Jeff in 2014 and I would be remiss if I didn't include my friend on my list for this year.

Honorable Mention:
There were some other outstanding releases in 2014 that didn't make my top ten list but are deserving of mention. They include: Damon Fowler - Sounds of Home; Jarekus Singleton - Refuse to Lose; Deanna Bogart - Just a Wish Away; Mud Morganfield & Kim Wilson - For Pops - A Tribute to Muddy Waters, and A Night With Janis Joplin - the Original Broadway Cast recording featuring Mary Bridget Davies. All are great discs that should be part of everyone's CD collection.



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