Blues Bytes

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January 2020


The last year marked more quality blues releases than any other year in recent memory, especially by younger artists. It makes me happy that the worldwide blues scene continues to trend stronger. There were so many good blues albums out in 2019 that we've decided to expand our Top 10 lists to Top 20 this year.

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Thanks to all of you for your support! 

- Bill Mitchell (Editor/Publisher of Blues Bytes)


Bill Mitchell (editor of Blues Bytes)

2019 was such an outstanding year for new blues releases that I'm going to veer from my normal Top 10 and make this year's list a Top 20. What has especially impressed me is the number of excellent albums from a younger generation of blues artists from around the world.

  1. KingfishChristone "Kingfish" Ingram - Kingfish (Alligator)
    This young man from Mississippi is the most exciting and energetic performer to come along in quite some time.
  2. Katarina Pejak - Roads That Cross (Ruf)
    I've listened to Ms. Pejak's music more than any other artist over the last year. Now if I could just get the chance to see her in person!
  3. Bloodest Saxophone - 5 Texas Queens (Dialtone / VizzTone)
    The biggest surprise of the year with these cats from Japan backing five female blues singers from Texas.
  4. The Texas Horns - Get Here Quick (Severn)
    I love the big, brassy music of The Texas Horns.
  5. Ina Forsman - Been Meaning To Tell You (Ruf)
    Outstanding follow-up to the self-titled CD by this outstanding singer from Finland.
  6. Bob Corritore & Friends - Do The Hip Shake Baby! (VizzTone)
    The best yet of Corritore's regularly scheduled gatherings of various artists.
  7. Kevin Burt - Heartland & Soul (Little Village Foundation)
    This one was a big, big surprise, a mixture of soul and  blues.
  8. Mighty Mike Schermer - Bad Tattoo (VizzTone)
    Creative songwriter and hot blues guitarist from California.
  9. Samantha Fish - Kill Or Be Kind (Rounder)
    Ms. Fish is another of the rising young stars on the blues scene today.
  10. Ally Venable - Texas Honey (Ruf)
    Just having turned 20 last year, Ms. Venable is now one of the rockin'-est blues guitarists on the scene.
  11. Cashbox Kings - Hail To The Kings! (Alligator)
    Solid Chicago blues ensemble just keeps putting out high quality stuff.
  12. Jimmy Carpenter - Soul Doctor (Gulf Coast)
    Carpenter has been around the blues scene as a sideman for quite a few years, but Soul Doctor cements his reputation as more than just a sax player.
  13. Bob Margolin - This Guitar And Tonight (VizzTone)
    Margolin could now be considered a national treasure. On this album, it's just him and his guitar playing the downhome blues.
  14. The Nick Moss Band - Lucky Guy! (Alligator)
    These cats are a hoot to see live, and just as good on CD.
  15. Ben LevinBen Levin - Before Me (VizzTone)
    Still another of the young blues artists, this 20-year-old piano player shows he's got a good future ahead of him with his second album.
  16. Nancy Wright - Alive & Blue (VizzTone)
    I obviously liked this album a lot since I advertently reviewed in twice, several months apart. Great sax player in a live performance.
  17. BB King Blues Band - The Soul of the King (Ruf)
    A whole lot of special guests join forces with many of B.B.'s longtime band members to create this delightful album.
  18. Toronzo Cannon - The Preacher, The Politician or The Pimp (Alligator)
    Solid Chicago blues and some very topical songwriting.
  19. Billy Price - Dog Eat Dog (Gulf Coast Records)
    One of Price's best, as his sojourn to the Greaseland studios added an extra dimension to his soulful blues.
  20. Big Joe & The Dynaflows - Rockhouse Party (Severn)
    Like the old-time blues shouters, Big Joe Maher is capable of belting out the blues with the support of his rockin' jump blues ensemble.


Graham Clarke (reviewer from Mississippi)

My Top 20 Releases for 2019: 2019 was a fantastic year for new blues. Some of the albums on my list haven’t been reviewed by me just yet due to time constraints, but they will be sooner or later……bear with me. Here’s my Top 20 in no particular order:

Big Creek Slim & Rodrigo MantovaniFirst Born (Chico Blues): This is a superb set of traditional blues from Danish blues man Slim and Brazilian bass player Mantovani.

Bloodest SaxophoneBloodest SaxophoneTexas Queens 5 (Dialtone/Vizztone): This Japanese jump blues unit is always cooking, but this time around they get to back some of the Lone Star State’s finest female blues singers. Not a bad cut in the bunch.

Willie BuckWillie Buck Way (Delmark): Buck sings Chicago blues the way they used to do it back in the Windy City’s glory days of the 1950’s.

Mary LaneTravelin’ Woman (Women of the Blues): A marvelous set of blues from the Chicago blues legend that will make listeners wish she’d get to the studio more often.

Kenny “Beedy Eyes” Smith & The House BumpersDrop The Hammer (Vizztone): Drummer Smith turns in a strong set of blues that will please traditional and contemporary blues fans, backed by a great group of fellow second-generation blues men.

Bob Corritore & FriendsDo The Hip-Shake Baby! (Vizztone): This set is what blues fans have come to expect with a Bob Corritore release --- an entertaining set of blues (with hints of rock n’ roll, R&B, and gospel) from the harp master and an all-star cast of the best in blues.

Grady ChampionSteppin’ In: A Tribute To Z.Z. Hill (Malaco): A fine tribute to a soul-blues legend, Champion does a marvelous job with these classic tunes.

Zac HarmonMississippi BarBQ (Catfood): My favorite Harmon release to date. A fine mix of blues and soul from one of the most dependable current record labels for either genre.

Delbert McClinton & Self-Made Men + DanaTall, Dark & Handsome (Hot Shot): See review in this issue. The Texas roadhouse legend turns in a rollicking set that captures his reckless musical spirit as well as anything he’s ever released.

Various Artists – Battle of the Blues: Chicago Vs. Oakland (Delta Roots): A great anthology set that features blues artists from both cities. Some you know, some you don’t know, but all of whom deserve to be heard.

Junior Watson (featuring Alabama Mike)Nothin’ To It But To Do It (Little Village Foundation): I love just about everything that comes out of Kid Andersen’s Greaseland Studios, but this was one of the best of the lot this year, with the legendary guitarist Watson at the top of his game (with superb vocal support from Alabama Mike and Anderson’s wife Lisa Leuschner-Andersen).

Billy PriceDog Eat Dog (Gulf Coast): Stellar soul and blues set from one of the finest singers currently practicing.

Ghost Town Blues BandShine: A potent mix of blues, rock, and soul, these guys blow me away every time I listen, and each album improves upon its predecessor.

Johnny RawlsI Miss Otis Clay (Third Street Cigar): So do I, Mr. Rawls, but I’m mighty glad that you are here to carry on his legacy with this powerful set.

The Sensational Barnes BrothersNobody’s Fault But Mine (Bible and Tire): This disc sounds like a gospel session recorded at Stax Records. Absolutely breathtaking.

Toronzo CannonToronzo CannonThe Preacher, The Politician, Or The Pimp (Alligator): As much as I like Cannon’s tough guitar work and vocals, I really enjoy his songwriting. It makes me laugh, cry, and think. It’s been great watching him develop his style over the past few years.

Christione “Kingfish” IngramKingfish (Alligator): I’ve been reading about and listening to this young man since he was 12 or 13. That said, this is one of the best debut releases I’ve heard in my 30+years of listening to the blues. A strong, diverse, and confident set that shows the future of the blues is in good hands.

North Mississippi AllstarsUp And Rolling (New West): A typically strong set from the group. A deft combination of traditional and contemporary Mississippi Hill Country blues.

Jimmy JohnsonEvery Day of Your Life (Delmark): Johnson just turned 91(!) and he sounds like he’s not planning on going anywhere anytime soon.

The Reverend Shawn AmosKitchen Table Blues (Vol. 1 & 2): Two EP’s count as one album in my book. These songs taken from Amos’ series (with assorted guest stars) are a lot of fun and show Amos’ love for the music. Check out the whole YouTube series when you have a chance.



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