Blues Bytes

Pick Hit

January 2019


Another year of Blues Bytes and we just keep rolling along. 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.

Sadly, we lost one of our long-time reviewers in 2018 as Mark Gallo passed away. RIP, Mark.

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 2018. OK, I couldn't stop at ten so I  am giving you an even dozen. Don't read too much into the order in which I've listed my 12 faves. They are all great albums and I could shuffle them in just about any order. Enjoy!

Kara GraingerKara Grainger - Living With Your Ghost (Station House Records)
This Australian expat based in Los Angeles gets better with each album. Now if we could just get her a gig in Phoenix!

David Julia - Inspired (VizzTone)
Still just in his teens, Julia may be the next guitar prodigy in the blues world.

Katy Guillen & The Girls - Remember What You Know Before (VizzTone)
I ordered this album right after reading Graham Clarke's review of it and have since picked up two more discs from this Kansas City trio.

Marcia Ball - Shine Bright (Alligator)
Ms. Ball is arguably the most consistently excellent blues artist on the scene today, so of course anything she releases has to be on my Top Ten list.

Bob Corritore & Friends - Don't Let The Devil Ride (VizzTone)
Typical album from the Phoenix blues impresario with many guest artists, but Corritore's harmonica playing is at its best on this one.

Vanessa Collier - Honey Up (Phenix Fire)
Impressive young sax player on the rise, also shining on vocals and with her songwriting.

Nick Moss Band with Dennis Gruenling - High Cost of Low Living (Alligator)
One of my favorite live shows from 2018 occurred when these Chicago cats came to Phoenix.

Johnny Tucker - Seven Day Blues (High John)
Raw blues with a touch of soul recorded on vintage of equipment takes the listener back to the golden era of blues.

Michelle Malone - Slings & Arrows (SBS)
She's been around for quite some time, but this album served as my introduction to Malone's very fine vocals and guitar playing.

Bob Margolin - Bob Margolin (VizzTone)
Bob has been playing the blues for a long time and has the credentials to now be labeled a veritable legend. This is just a nice album coming from the heart of one of our treasured blues artists.

Whitney Shay - A Woman Rules The World (Little Village Foundation)
Another fine female singer that I learned about from a Graham Clarke review. Within minutes of my first listen to A Woman Rules The World, I was ordering Ms. Shay's previous album which is our Flashback feature this month.

Billy Price - Reckoning (VizzTone)
I own most if not all of Price's extensive discography and have always been a big fan, but a trip west to Kid Andersen's Greaseland studio to record Reckoning helps to make Reckoning one of his best.

Other interesting 2018 CDs came from Rockwell Avenue Blues Band (Back To Chicago), Dana Fuchs (Loves Lives On), Mud Morganfield (They Call Me Mud) and Ally Venable (Puppet Show).

NOTE: I did not realize until compiling this list what a great year the VizzTone group of labels had this past year ---- five of my  top 12 CDs were released by them. Pretty impressive!



Tim Holek (reviewer and freelance journalist from Canada)

2018 was a year of highly memorable releases for Chicago’s Alligator and Delmark Records. Here is my top ten list of 2018 in no particular order.

Tinsley EllisTinsley Ellis - Winning Hand (Alligator)

Kirk Fletcher - Hold On (Self-Released)

Lurrie Bell and the Bell Dynasty - Tribute to Carey Bell (Delmark)

Nick Moss Band w/Dennis Gruenling - High Cost of Low Living (Alligator)

Curtis Salgado and Alan Hager - Rough Cut (Alligator)

Elvin Bishop - Something Smells Funky ’Round Here (Alligator)

Various Artists - Tribute - Delmark’s 65th Anniversary (Delmark)

Rockwell Avenue Blues Band - Back To Chicago (Delmark)

Shemekia Copeland - America’s Child (Alligator)

Billy Price - Reckoning (VizzTone)


Graham Clarke (reviewer from Mississippi)

My top 10 releases for 2018 (in alphabetical order)

Lurrie BellLurrie Bell & the Bell Dynasty - Tribute To Carey Bell (Delmark Records)
An excellent set that showcases all four of the Bells brothers, along with guests Charlie Musselwhite and Billy Branch. Though Lurrie Bell is the best known of the brothers, harmonica player Steve, singer/drummer James, and bassist Tyson bring plenty of talent of their own to the table as well. Dad would be proud.

Big Apple Blues - Manhattan Alley (Stone Tone Records)
I listened to this one an awful lot these past few months. This was a really cool all-instrumental set that combined the blues with soul, rock, and funk with a great retro feel. Anybody who digs Booker T or Jimmy Smith will find a lot to enjoy here.

Barbara Blue - Fish in Dirty H2O (BIG Blue Records)
I've been listening to “The Reigning Queen of Beale Street” for a long time and this one is easily her best with a super mix of blues and R&B, and an all-star cast of supporting musicians. If you're new to Barbara Blue, it's time to get on board.

Kirk Fletcher - Hold On (Kirk Fletcher Records)
It's been fascinating to watch this brilliant young guitarist develop not only with his chosen instrument, but also as a singer and songwriter. He says this is truly his first "solo" record. It's certainly his best one. Some of the best guitar work you’ll hear this year, or any other.

Ghost Town Blues Band - Backstage Pass (Ghost Town Blues Band)
Without a doubt, one of the best live albums I've heard in a long, long time. Matt Isbell and the band are at their absolute best on this superb set. This is a must-have for their current fans and a great introduction for new fans. Get this now!!

Dave Keller - Every Soul's A Star (Catfood Records)
I have to admit that I was thrilled to hear that Keller had signed with Catfood Records because I knew that he would be a perfect fit for their catalog of soul-blues artists, and he certainly didn't disappoint with this release. It has a great Memphis feel with the Rays providing stellar backing, and Keller is one of the best soul-blues vocalists out there right now.

Trudy Lynn - Blues Keep Knockin' (Connor Ray Music)
Ms. Trudy seems to have found a home with Connor Ray Music and an excellent band led by harmonica ace Steve Krase, and she just blows the doors off on this album. Every Trudy Lynn album is a treat, and this one is awesome.

Brigitte Purdy - Still I Rise (Dirtshack Records)
Wow! This stunning release blew me away late in the year. Ms. Purdy can sing it all --- blues, rock, soul, jazz, R&B, and even classical --- seemingly without breaking a sweat. She covers a lot of ground in a short time on this release and it all sounds great. Blues fans are advised to keep tabs on this great new talent!

Boz Scaggs - Out of The Blues (Concord Records)
I've really enjoyed Scaggs' recent trio of albums that pay tribute to his musical roots. This third set focuses on the blues with a great mix of classics from Bobby Bland, Jimmy Reed, Jimmy McCracklin, and Neil Young(!), along with several original tunes that blend seamlessly with the classics.

Walter "Wolfman" Washington - My Future Is My Past (Anti/Epitath)
I never got around to reviewing this one last year, but it definitely belongs on the list. This album is unlike any of the Wolfman's previous soul/blues/funk releases. This is pristine after-hours blues and while Washington has always been highly regarded as a guitarist, his vocals are his secret weapon and he's done marvelous work previously with the ballads on his earlier albums. Check out his incredible duet with the great Irma Thomas on “Even Now,” one of my all-time favorite songs from one of my favorite songwriters, the late David Egan.


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

In no particular order, here are my top 10 discs.

Buddy Guy1) Buddy Guy - The Blues is Alive and Well (Silvertone)
Buddy keeps on aging gracefully just like the Cognac he sings about. Another gem from Buddy and kudos to Tom Hambridge for all of his work ad Buddy's producer.

2) Billy F. Gibbons - The Big Bad Blues (Concord)
Loved the vibe of this whole record from Billy. I keep on coming back to it and that's a good thing!

3) Shemekia Copeland - America's Child (Alligator)
Just a wonderfully crafted contemporary record from Shemekia.

4) Anthony Geraci - Why Did You Have to Go (Shining Stone)
More amazing work from my friend in the Northeast. Anthony has been involved in a number of great projects in the past couple of years and this disc is no exception.

5) The Love Light Orchestra featuring John Nemeth - The Love Light Orchestra (Blue Barrel)
John has been telling me about this big band project of his for a couple of years now and I was fortunate to see them last May when I was in Memphis for the BMA's. Just a masterpiece that clearly shows John is at the top of his game.

6) The Nick Moss Band featuring Dennis Gruenling - The High Cost of Low Living (Alligator)
Nick and the band tore it up at Blues From the Top last summer and Dennis brings his unique harp talents to the mix in this release from Nick.

7) Danielle Nicole - Cry No More (Concord)
This record impressed me from the first listen. Looking forward to her next visit through Colorado.

8) Joe Louis Walker/Bruce Katz/Giles Robson - Journeys To the Heart of the Blues (Alligator)
Loved this acoustic project from Joe, Bruce & Giles. Highly recommended

9) Kevin Burt - Heartland and Soul (Little Village Foundation)
Kevin took the honor's in the solo/duo category a year ago at the IBC and released a gem of an album here.

10) Brigitte Purdy - Still I Rise (Dirtshack)
One of my personal favorites of the year is this disc from Brigitte Rios Purdy, an emerging artist from Los Angeles. Soulful writing and her amazing vocals brought this disc to the attention of the good folks at XM and yielded three singles in the top 50 RMR blues charts.



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