Blues Bytes

Pick Hit

January 2017


Blues Bytes is now out of its teen years and it's now been20 years since we published our first issue. It seems like it was only yesterday. 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)

Here's my list of ten favorite CDs from 2016. Enjoy!

1) Mitch Kashmar - West Coast Toast (Delta Groove Music)
Another fine album from one of the West Coast's best harmonica dudes.

2) Corey Dennison Band - Corey Dennison Band (Delmark Records)
It's been a while since a new young artist excited me as much as Dennison. Great soulful Chicago blues!

3) Big Jon Atkinson & Bob Corritore - House Party at Big Jon's (Delta Groove Music)
From the first name I saw Big Jon playing with Corritore at the Rhythm Room in Phoenix, I knew that this young cat was a star in the making.

4) Curtis Salgado - The Beautiful Lowdown (Alligator Records)
A strong follow-up to the excellent 2012 album, Soul Shot, from one of the most powerful and soulful singers on the blues scene today.

5) Bob Margolin - My Road (Steady Rollin' Records / VizzTone Label Group)
The first album in way too long from one of our national treasures on the blues scene. Keep steady rollin', Mr. Margolin!

6) Mark Hummel, Anson Funderburgh & Little Charlie Baty - Golden State Lone Star Blues Revue (Electro-Fi)
The names of the artists forming this blues supergroup and the title of the album sum up just about everything you need to know about this disc.

7) Knickerbocker All-Stars - Trouble Don't Last (Jp Cadillac Records)
This is three years in a row on my Top Ten list for this fine all-star ensemble from Rhode Island. Their resemblance to early Roomful of Blues is accentuated this time around with a guest appearance by Duke Robillard.

8) Matthew Skoller - Blues Immigrant (Tongue 'n Groove Records)
One of the better harmonica blues albums of the year.

9) Toronzo Cannon - The Chicago Way (Alligator Records)
I'm way late to the game with this fine Chicago blues guitarist. The Chicago Way is his third album, so I've got some catching up to do!

10) The Fabulous Thunderbirds - Strong Like That (Severn Records)
These cats just keep doing it, with their latest being pretty gritty and funky. I just wish their were more than ten cuts, but the T-birds pack a lot of good sounds into it.

OK, one more. As I was completing my list and verifying record labels, a link for a self-titled CD on Ruf Records by retro R&B/soul/blues/jazz singer Ina Forsman popped up. I was able to immediately listen to it via my Amazon Prime subscription, and now want to know who is Ina Forsman and where's she been all my life? Move this one to the top, please!


Tim Holek (reviewer and freelance journalist from Canada)

Toronzo Cannon - The Chicago Way (Alligator) - Cannon has been around for a while now and has some other releases out. However, The Chicago Way surpasses everything he has done in the past. His vocals, guitar playing and songwriting have combined to make this a serious contender for record of the year.

Sugar Ray and the BluetonesSeeing Is Believing (Severn) - Sugar Ray and his band have been one of the most consistent bands on the scene for numerous years. This disc shows they are still on top of their game.

Corey Dennison BandCorey Dennison Band (Delmark) - An outstanding debut release from someone steeped in the tradition of real deal Chicago blues.

Bruce KatzOut From The Center - Katz has paid his dues but never seems to get his deserved acclaim. His latest disc is brilliant.

John Del Toro RichardsonTengo Blues (VizzTone) - This disc proves Richardson is a strong enough musician to hold his own.

Nick Moss BandFrom The Root To The Fruit (Blue Bella) - An excellent collection of traditional and contemporary blues.

Moreland and ArbucklePromised Land Or Bust (Alligator) - Ok, so this one isn't entirely blues but its one of the best roots rock albums of the year.

Curtis SalgadoThe Beautiful Lowdown (Alligator) - This is another excellent soul record from one of the best singers on the scene.

Bobby RushPorcupine Meat (Universal) - Now in his early 80s, Rush has released one of his best albums in years.

Lil’ Ed & The Blues ImperialsThe Big Sound of Lil’ Ed & The Blues Imperials (Alligator) - Once again, Williams proves he is far more talented than the court jester he portrays while on stage


Mark E. Gallo (reviewer from Michigan)

It’s been a very good year for the blues. I can never limit it to 10. This year’s 10 is 14 and there are so many others deserving of much attention.

1. Toronzo Cannon: The Chicago Way (Alligator). The best electric blues this side of Luther Allison. Great singing and songwriting – and killer guitar.

2. Vasti Jackson: The Soul of Jimmie Rodgers (Vast Eye). Brilliant acoustic outing celebrating the music of Jimmie Rodgers. Jackson is a maestro. Matthew Skoller

3. Matthew Skoller: Blues Immigrant (Tongue & Groove). My favorite harp album of the year and my fave tune in “The Devil Ain’t Got No Music.”

4. Deb Ryder: Grit Grease and Tears (Bejeb). Vocal power personified. Best vocal album of the year.

5. Benny Turner: When She’s Gone (NOLA). Benny is a classic Texas blues man who impresses on every song. Fantastic singer!

6. William Bell: This Is Where I Live (Stax). The man who IS Stax Records is a powerful presence 50 years into it.

7. Big Jon Atkinson and Bob Corritore: House Party at Big Jon’s (Delta Groove). Both principals are spectacular. Atkinson reminds of Hollywood Fats. Swinging!

8. Thornetta Davis: Honest Woman (Sweet Mama Music). The Queen of the Detroit blues scene shows why she is.

9. The Record Company: Give It Back To You (Concord). Will remind you of the Black Keys at times. Stripped down and rockin’.

10. Mitch Kashmar: West Coast Toast (Delta Groove). In a year of great harmonica recordings, Kashmar is more impressive with each outing.

11. Big Harp George: Wash My Horse In Champagne (Blues Mountain). The best chromatic harp player out there. Vocals to match the fantastic blowing.

12. Will Porter: Tick Tock Tick; (Gramophono). Pipes? Oh yeah!

13. Corey Dennison Band (Delmark). Classic Chicago blues. This is a name to keep an ear out for.

14. Shoji Naito: New Cool Old School (Ogden). Guitarist/harmonica player from Japan who has a fantastic classic blues album to help you remember his name.

Other great releases are heartily recommended by The Tedeschi Trucks Band, Kenny Neal, Sugar Ray and the Bluetones, Janiva Magness, Fiona Boyes, a superb Michael Burks re-issue, John Mayall Bluebreakers, Moreland and Arbuckle, Vaneese Thomas, Markey Blue, Sugar Blue, Ina Forsman, John Long, Johnny Rawls, Doug MacLeod, Ray Fuller, and the Honey Island Swamp Band as well as the Golden State Lone Star Blues Review, Knickerbocker All-Stars, Terri Odabi, Fabrizio Poggi, and Sari Schorr. Whew!! What a year!


Graham Clarke (reviewer from Mississippi)

Counting the reviews I submitted this month, I think I reviewed over 160 CDs in 2016. It was REALLY hard to trim that down to just TEN favorites. Overall, I got to hear a lot of great music over the year. Anyone who says the blues is a dying genre obviously hasn’t been listening to any lately. There was a lot of fantastic new blues releases this year, and here are my ten favorites (in alphabetical order):

Lurrie BellLurrie Bell Can’t Shake This Feeling (Delmark): Another great release from Bell…..If you dig Chicago Blues, you better get this one.

The Bo-KeysHeartaches By The Number (Omnivore): The Memphis instrumental group adds vocals and heads to Nashville with fascinating results.

Toronzo CannonThe Chicago Way (Alligator): Cannon’s latest finds him firing on all cylinders. Great release!!

Luther DickinsonBlues & Ballads (A Folksinger’s Songbook, Volumes 1 & 2) (New West): Dickinson collects 21 traditional folk and blues-based tunes learned over his lifetime….a real musical autobiography that makes for rewarding listening.

Dave KellerRight Back Atcha (Tastee Tone): One of the best singers in blues or soul gives us his best to date, which is really saying something.

Guy KingTruth (Delmark): Fantastic set of tunes from King, who pays tribute to his influences with a well-rounded set of originals and covers.

The King BrothersGet Up and Shake It (Club Savoy Entertainment): Nice comeback effort from these guys….this is a hard rocking funky set of updated blues classics.

Trudy LynnI’ll Sing The Blues For You (Connor Ray): Ms Trudy could sing the “S” section of the Houston phone book and I’d listen. A great singer backed by a fantastic band.

Elam McKnightRadio (Big Black Hand): Where McKnight’s musical vision is fully realized. It’s a fun ride!

Tweed FunkCome Together (Tweed Tone): One of my favorite bands turning out some vintage blues, R&B, and deep soul.

Honorable Mention: The FremontsAlligator (Truax), Cee Cee JamesStripped Down & Surrendered (FWG), John LongStand Your Ground (Delta Groove), Johnny RawlsTiger In A Cage (Catfood), Robert Lee “Lil’ Poochie Watson & Hezekiah EarlyNatchez Burnin’ (Broke & Hungry)



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

There were a lot of great discs released in 2016 and here is my top ten in no particular order:

Fabulous ThunderbirdsThe Fabulous ThunderbirdsStrong Like That (Severn Records)
Just an amazing record by the Thunderbirds that shows Kim Wilson and Company are still at the top of their game.

Bobby RushPorcupine Meat (New Rounder)
One of Bobby’s best! He’s still making great music and showing the next generation how it’s done. Bobby’s not getting older, he just keeps getting better.

Janiva MagnessLove Wins Again (Blue Elan Records)
Janiva’s at the top of her game and is in a great space both personally and professionally that is reflected in this disc!

William BellThis is Where I Live (Stax)
The Stax legend comes out with an amazing record. My favorite soul/blues record of the year by far! William Bell’s got it going on!

Walter Trout Alive in Amsterdam (Provogue)
My favorite rock blues artist and a tour de force after his successful liver transplant. Walter’s got a lot to live for and he’s sharing his renewed zest for life with all of his fans. He’s come a long way since those dark days in Omaha.

Michael BurksI’m a Bluesman (Iron Man Music)
A labor of love for Michael’s widow, Bobbie, to bring this project to life. It’s like the Iron Man never left. Just an awesome remembrance of just how great my friend Michael Burks really was in his time on earth

Curtis SalgadoThe Beautiful Lowdown (Alligator Records)
Another great record from Curtis. He continues to write and perform great soul/blues songs and we’re lucky to have him.

Sari Schorr A Force of Nature (Manhaton Records)
I’d hear stories of Sari’s amazing voice and talents long before I had the pleasure of meeting her and I’m glad I finally had the opportunity to do so. Sari’s almost a Dr. Jekyl / Mistress Hyde in terms of off-stage vs on-stage performer but this woman from Brooklyn can rock with the best of them!

Luther DickinsonBlues & Ballads (New West Records)
The talents of Luther and his brother Cody are legendary so it was interesting to me to hear Luther on his own acoustically. Nothing he does surprises me much anymore but kudos to him for a great record.

Kenny Neal Blood Line (Cleopatra Blues)
Kenny’s one of my favorite artists and delivered to us another excellent disc. I’m happy to have some new Kenny Neal music to listen to.

Honorable Mentions: Ten just doesn’t do the available selections this year justice so Albert CastigliaBig Dog, Doug MacleodLive in Europe, Wee Willie Walker & the Greaseland All StarsLive in Notodden and Toronzo CannonThe Chicago Way all deserved to be mentioned. Throw in Blood Moon by Too Slim & the Taildraggers along with Moreland & Arbuckle’s Promised Land or Bust and you have everything you need for a great road trip!




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