Blues Bytes

Pick Hit

January 2021


I'm sure you're with me when I say that I am so glad that 2020 is behind us. What a challenging year! But on the bright side, there were so many wonderful new blues releases from around the world, and we've tried to cover most of them in Blues Bytes. The fact that blues artists and record labels could keep the business going with very few live shows speaks to the the staying power of the blues. I'm absolutely certain that the music will come back even stronger in 2021.

The other positive from the pandemic is that it gave me time to return to one of my passions of playing the blues on radio. It had been 25 years since my last official radio show, but I returned earlier this month, hosting Blues Bytes Radio on internet station Radio Phoenix.

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)


Blues Bytes reviewers' top picks for 2020

Bill Mitchell (editor of Blues Bytes)

  1. Dave KellerDave Keller - You Get What You Give (Tastee-Tone Records)
    It's not just recency bias that pops this album of Keller's duets with prominent singers to the top of the list. It's very well-crafted and seamlessly covers a wide spectrum of blues/soul/gospel styles.
  2. Jimmy Johnson - Every Day Of Your Life (Delmark Records)
    Great singing and guitar playing from Chicago blues veteran who was 91(!) when this album was recorded.
  3. John Primer & Bob Corritore - The Gypsy Woman Done Told Me (VizzTone)
    Do we all agree that Mr. Primer has now reached the status of "legendary Chicago bluesman"?
  4. Shemekia Copeland - Uncivil War (Alligator Records)
    Extremely timely topical songs push this gem up  the list.
  5. Jose Ramirez - Here I Come (self-released)
    Solid debut album from singer / guitarist originally from Honduras.
  6. Big Harp George - Living In The City (Blues Mountain Records)
    My sleeper album of the year.
  7. Vanessa Collier - Heart On The Line (Phenix Fire Records)
    This young saxophone player / singer just keeps getting better.
  8. Kevin Burt - Stone Crazy (Gulf Coast Records)
    Strong follow-up to 2018 release Heartland & Soul album by very fine singer.
  9. Gerald McClendon - Can't Nobody Stop Me Now (CD Baby)
    Where has Gerald McClendon been for my whole blues career? A very strong soul/blues from veteran Chicago singer.
  10. Dennis Jones - Soft Hard & Loud (Blue Rock Records)
    Strong batch of urban blues from L.A.-based guitarist.
  11. Avey Grouws Band - The Devil May Care (self-released)
    Iowa band's self-released album was one of the more surprising albums of the year. Surprising in a good way.
  12. Larkin Poe - Self Made Man (Tricki-Woo Records)
    This sister duo continues to take old blues and gospel styles and bring them into this century with foreboding vocals and wonderful slide guitar.
  13. Lisa Mills - The Triangle (BMG Rights Management)
    Very strong album of soul and blues as Ms. Mills takes the listener on a trip through various legendary recording studios of the south with fine covers of many classic tunes.
  14. Lloyd Jones - Tennessee Run (VizzTone)
    Portland, Oregon artist who continues to impress for both his songwriting, singing and guitar skills.
  15. Sugar Ray & the Bluetones - Too Far From The Bar (Severn Records)
    A fun album from veteran band is made even better by giving us one of the last chances to hear from the guitarist Little Charlie Baty.

And even more albums for my list:

  • JD Taylor - The Coldwater Sessions (VizzTone)
  • Whitney Shay - Stand Up! (Ruf Records)
  • Malaya Blue - Still (Blue Heart)
    One of my favorite songs of the year --- "These Four Walls" --- comes from this British blues singer.
  • John Blues BoydWhat My Eyes Have Seen……(Gulf Coast Records)
  • Andy Watts - Supergroove (Booga Music / VizzTone)
  • Andrew Alli - Hard Workin' Man (Ellersoul Records)
  • Gregg Martinez - MacDaddy Mojeaux (MacDaddy Productions)
  • Junior Watson - Nothin' To It But To Do It (Little Village Foundation)
  • Casey Hensley - Good As Gone (VizzTone)
  • Kat Riggins - Cry Out (Gulf Coast Records)
  • Elvin Bishop & Charlie Musselwhite - 100 Years Of Blues (Alligator Records)
  • Ben Levin - Carryout Or Delivery (VizzTone)
  • Erin Harpe - Meet Me In The Middle (VizzTone / Juicy Juju)
  • Kirsten Thien - Two Sides (Screen Door Records)
  • JW-Jones - Sonic Departure (Solid Blues Records)
  • John NémethStronger Than Strong (Memphis Grease Records)
  • Don Bryant - You Make Me Feel (Fat Possum Records)



Graham Clarke (reviewer from Mississippi)

Top 10 for 2020 (In no particular order):

Bobby RushBobby RushRawer Than Raw (Deep Rush Records)
A sequel of sorts to his Raw album from a few years back, the veteran soul-blues man outdoes himself on this set of acoustic blues that are as timeless as the man himself.

Don BryantYou Make Me Feel (Fat Possum Records)
There were several great soul-blues releases in 2020 (you’ll see more down the list). Bryant’s comeback has been one of the best stories on the blues and soul scenes in recent years. Great return to the Hi and Stax sounds of yesterday.

Gerald McClendonCan’t Nobody Stop Me Now (Delta Roots)
We got a taste of what this great singer could do on last year’s Battle of the Blues – Chicago vs. Oakland album. McClendon shows what he can do with a full album and blues fans should enjoy the results.

Sonny GreenFound! One Soul Singer (Little Village Foundation)
Green has been around for years, but it’s a mystery how this is his first album. He combines the best of Bobby “Blue” Bland, Little Milton, with a dash of ’70s Hi Records. Hopefully, we will hear more soon from this great singer.

Lisa MillsThe Triangle (Melody Place Music)
A tribute to the music of three southern music cities --- Memphis, Muscle Shoals, and Jackson, Mississippi. Mills traveled to all three cities, recording famous songs that originated from each city using legendary musicians who helped make them famous in the first place. Mills is a talent who deserves to be heard, and maybe this album will pave the way.

Johnny IguanaJohnny Iguana’s Chicago Spectacular! (Delmark Records)
A…..well…..spectacular album of Chicago piano-based blues from one of the Windy City’s best keyboardist with help from some of Chicago’s finest musicians. This one is a blast from start to finish!

John Blues BoydWhat My Eyes Have Seen……(Gulf Coast Records)
One of the best stories of 2020, a year that needed a few good stories. Singing and songwriting that raises goose bumps. Hopefully, we will hear much more from this late bloomer soon.

New Moon Jelly Roll Freedom Rockers Volume 1 (Stony Plain Records
Fantastic “potluck” recording session from 2007 with Luther, Cody, and Jim Dickinson, Alvin Youngblood Hart, Jimbo Mathus, and Charlie Musselwhite. How did this one sit idle for so long??? Bring on Volume 2!!

Sam JoynerWhen U Need A Friend (Sam Joyner Music)
This one really grabbed me. I like the mix of styles (New Orleans, Chicago, Malaco) and the mix of blues, soul, and R&B. Joyner is a great singer and keyboardist that you really need to hear.

Kern PrattGreenwood, MS….What About You? (Endless Blues Records)
This one came out in late December of 2019, but it was one of my favorites through 2020. One of the nicest guys in the blues, Pratt passed away on Christmas Eve from COVID complications. He deserved to be in the Best of 2019, but I’m putting him in my Best of 2020.

Next Five:

Johnny RawlsWhere Have All The Soul Men Gone? (Third Street Cigar Records)
Andrew AlliHard Workin’ Man (EllerSoul Records)
Jose RamirezHere I Come
John NémethStronger Than Strong (Memphis Grease Records)
Nora Jean WallaceBluesWoman (Severn Records)



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