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
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
Thanks to all of you for your support!
- Bill Mitchell (Editor/Publisher of Blues Bytes)
Mitchell (editor of Blues Bytes)
Here's my list of ten favorite CDs from 2016. Enjoy!
1) Mitch Kashmar - West Coast Toast (Delta Groove
Another fine album from one of the West Coast's best harmonica
2) Corey Dennison Band - Corey Dennison Band (Delmark
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
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
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
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
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
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!
(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 Bluetones – Seeing 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 Band – Corey Dennison Band
(Delmark) - An outstanding debut release from someone steeped in the
tradition of real deal Chicago blues.
Bruce Katz – Out From The Center - Katz
has paid his dues but never seems to get his deserved acclaim. His
latest disc is brilliant.
John Del Toro Richardson – Tengo Blues (VizzTone)
- This disc proves Richardson is a strong enough musician to hold his
Nick Moss Band – From The Root To The Fruit
(Blue Bella) - An excellent collection of traditional and contemporary
Moreland and Arbuckle – Promised 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 Salgado – The Beautiful Lowdown
(Alligator) - This is another excellent soul record from one of the best
singers on the scene.
Bobby Rush – Porcupine Meat (Universal) -
Now in his early 80s, Rush has released one of his best albums in years.
Lil’ Ed & The Blues Imperials – The 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
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.
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.
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
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!
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 Bell – Can’t Shake This Feeling
(Delmark): Another great release from Bell…..If you dig Chicago
Blues, you better get this one.
The Bo-Keys – Heartaches By The Number
(Omnivore): The Memphis instrumental group adds vocals and heads to
Nashville with fascinating results.
Toronzo Cannon – The Chicago Way
(Alligator): Cannon’s latest finds him firing on all cylinders.
Luther Dickinson – Blues & 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
Dave Keller – Right 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 King – Truth (Delmark): Fantastic
set of tunes from King, who pays tribute to his influences with a
well-rounded set of originals and covers.
The King Brothers – Get 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 Lynn – I’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
Elam McKnight – Radio (Big Black
Hand): Where McKnight’s musical vision is fully realized. It’s a fun
Tweed Funk – Come Together (Tweed
Tone): One of my favorite bands turning out some vintage blues, R&B,
and deep soul.
Honorable Mention: The Fremonts – Alligator (Truax),
Cee Cee James – Stripped Down & Surrendered (FWG),
John Long – Stand Your Ground (Delta Groove), Johnny
Rawls – Tiger In A Cage (Catfood), Robert Lee “Lil’
Poochie Watson & Hezekiah Early – Natchez Burnin’ (Broke
Deibler (Regular Blues Bytes reviewer now living in
There were a lot of great discs released in 2016 and here is my top
ten in no particular order:
The Fabulous Thunderbirds – Strong Like That (Severn
Just an amazing record by the Thunderbirds that shows Kim Wilson and
Company are still at the top of their game.
Bobby Rush – Porcupine 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 Magness – Love 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 Bell – This 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
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 Burks – I’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 Salgado – The Beautiful Lowdown (Alligator
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 Dickinson – Blues & Ballads (New West
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
Honorable Mentions: Ten just doesn’t do the available selections
this year justice so Albert Castiglia – Big Dog,
Doug Macleod – Live in Europe, Wee Willie Walker & the
Greaseland All Stars – Live in Notodden and Toronzo
Cannon – The 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!