2021 was a very good year, both for Blues Bytes and
with the number of exciting new young artists releasing albums in the
past 12 months. 2021 also marked the first year of Blues Bytes Radio
(see our Home page for details). As with every previous year, we use the
January Pick Hit to feature the reviewers' Top Ten Lists for the past
Thanks to both our regular reviewers and our
readers for your support of the blues!
--- Bill Mitchell (Editor/Publisher of Blues Bytes)
Mitchell (editor of Blues Bytes)
Here's my top 10 from 2021 plus another 20 noteworthy albums in
no particular order.
Christone "Kingfish" Ingram - 662 (Alligator)
Kingfish returns with another strong album for Alligator. As good as
this young man is on his recordings, he's even better in person!
2) Selwyn Birchwood - Living In A Burning House (Alligator)
We are unabashed fans of this Florida bluesman here at Blues Bytes, and
every new release by Birchwood is welcomed with open arms and ears.
3) Teresa James & The Rhythm Tramps - Rose-Colored Glasses,
Vol. 1 (Blue Heart)
I was familiar with the name Teresa James before this album came out,
but this album absolutely blew my mind. I've probably listened to
Rose-Colored Glasses more than anything else in the past year, and
the good news is that there may be a Vol. 2 in the works. Yes!
4) Buffalo Nichols - Buffalo Nichols (Fat Possum)
A young acoustic guitarist, singer and songwriter ranks as one of the
surprises of the year. Nichols has been opening shows for the Drive-By
Truckers, and the Fat Possum label has success in the past in getting
its artists in front of audiences outside the blues circle.
5) Memphissippi Sounds - Welcome To The Land (Little
One of the more important new albums of the year by a duo that mixes
Mississippi Hill Country blues with Memphis soul and a whole lot of
other influences, not to mention the fact that many of their
compositions contain references to the current political and social
6) Tia Carroll - You Gotta Have It (Little Village)
This was my first album from Ms. Carroll and, oh my, she can really belt
7) Ben Levin - Still Here (VizzTone)
This young piano player gets better with every new release. It's his
third album and he's still only in his early 20s. But there's an old
soul embedded in this youngster's body.
Altered Five Blues Band - Holler If You Hear Me (Blind Pig)
The booming voice of Jeff Taylor make this album stand out on the band's
9) Wee Willie Walker And The Anthony Paule Soul Orchestra -
Not In My Lifetime (Blue Dot)
Mr. Walker passed away three days after the final recording session
for Not In My Lifetime, but what a ay to go.
10) Chris Cain - Raisin Cain (Alligator)
I've been a big fan of Cain dating back to his very early Late Night
City Blues album, and he's just as strong more than 35 years later.
Bob Corritore & Friends - Spider In My Stew (SWMAF/VizzTone)
Phoenix blues impresario Corritore continues to bring an enormous amount
of talent through town and get them into the studio. Great collection
with plenty of notable musicians, but for my money the Sugaray Rayford
cuts stand out.
Hector Anchondo - Let Loose Those Chains (VizzTone)
A real sleeper with a nice collection of acoustic blues with a heavy
dose of folk.
Joyann Parker - Out Of The Dark (Hopeless Romantics)
A very underrated singer releases her best album yet.
Dave Specter - Six Strong Soul: 30 Years On Delmark (Delmark)
The title of this album says it all, with two discs worth of material
covering Specter's history with the iconic Chicago label.
Curtis Salgado - Damage Control (Alligator)
This soulful blues singer with a big voice never disappoints.
Donna Herula - Bang At The Door (self-released)
Chicago-area acoustic guitarist and singer presents some very creative
original compositions to make a fun album.
Clarence Spady - Surrender (Nola Blue)
Long overdue third release by Pennsylvania blues cat Spady, his first in
about 13 years. He's promising to not wait that long for his next album.
Adam Schultz - Soulful Distancing (Blue Heart)
Impressive collection of songs, both originals and covers, from
18-year-old guitarist with various guest singers, including Spady,
handling the vocals.
Veronica Lewis - You Ain't Unlucky (Blue Heart)
You will say "Wow!" when you hear this Boston teenager pound away on the
piano and shout out the blues. Even more impressive because she's still
in high schoo.
Johnny Tucker Featuring Kid Ramos And The Allstars - 75 &
Alive (Blue Heart)
Veteran blues singer keeps it down home, and is backed by an impressive
group of musicians.
Ally Venable - Heart Of Fire (Ruf)
Now 22, Venable is a rising star in the blues world. The highlight for
me is her version of Bill Withers' "Use Me."
Sue Foley - Pinky's Blues (Stony Plain Music)
Canadian-born, Texas-based guitarist knocks it out the park with her
Patti Parks - Whole Nother World (VizzTone)
Soulful blues singer demonstrates variety with her song selection, but
the winner for me is her version of James Brown's "It's A Man's Man's
Dwayne Dopsie - Set Me Free (Louisiana Red Hot)
Best new zydeco album in many years comes from the son of Louisiana
legend Rockin' Dopsie.
Colin James - Open Road (Stony Plain Music)
Canadian guitarist / singer with one of the best of his career.
Cedric Burnside - I Be Trying (Single Lock Records)
Already nominated for a Grammy, this is Hill Country blues at its best.
Lisa Mills - The Triangle-Extended Edition (Melody
The Triangle was one of the best albums of 2020, but this
Extended Edition came out in 2021 with four additional cuts. Ms.
Mills' version of King Floyd's "Groove Me" makes it worth the price
Tommy Castro - A Bluesman Came To Town (Alligator)
Castro tells a complete story about the highs and lows of a young blues
artist over 13 songs.
Hanna PK - Blues All Over My Shoes (Bonedog / VizzTone)
This one caught me by surprise. Hanna PK is a young piano player /
singer originally from Seoul, South Korea, now based in Rochester, New
Carolyn Wonderland - Tempting Fate (Alligator)
Texas singer and guitarist has recorded infrequently over the years, so
Tempting Fate is certainly a welcome addition to her discography.
Clarke (reviewer from Mississippi)
Top Ten Releases for 2021 (In no particular order)
Bland and the Memphis Only Band - Live on Beale Street: A
Tribute to Bobby "Blue" Bland (Nola Blue Records): A loving
tribute to father from son that any fan of the father needs to hear.
Robben Ford - Pure (Ear Music): Ford's
first instrumental album in nearly 25 years is a near-perfect
combination of his blues and jazz sensibilities, leaning toward the
blues. A stellar effort.
Stevie J Blues - Quarantined (PKMG): A
strong set of contemporary blues and soul-blues that embraces old
school, while being thoroughly modern at the same time.
Brad Vickers and his Vestapolitans - The
Music Gets Us Thru (ManHatTone Records): Vickers and band always
just miss my Top 20 with their always interesting
releases.....modern tunes with a nod to the earliest blues stars
(particularly Tampa Red). This is their best release to date.
Wee Willie Walker and the Anthony Paule Soul
Orchestra - Not In My Lifetime (Blue Dot Records):
Walker's final recordings, completed just a few days before his
death, are superb.
Ben Levin - Still Here (VizzTone):
Piano blues are making a strong comeback thanks to some fantastic
young talent. Levin has put out two masterful releases for VizzTone
in the last couple of years and he's barely in his twenties.
Dexter Allen - Keep Moving On (Endless
Blues Records): This is a great set of contemporary blues and soul
from a Mississippi blues man who deserves to be better known.
Eddie Turner - Change In Me (7-14
Records): It's been a long time since I've heard Turner's powerful
brand of blues and this one didn't disappoint.
Chris Gill - Between Midnight and Louise
(Endless Blues Records): Gill turns in one of the best solo acoustic
recordings that I've heard in a long time. If you like acoustic
blues, you need this in your collection.
Clarence Spady - Surrender (Nola Blue
Records): I wish Spady recorded more often.....it's grueling to wait
so long between releases, especially when they're this great.
Corey Ledet - Corey Ledet Zydeco
(Nouveau Electric Records): I really started back listening to
zydeco this year, both my old collection and several awesome new
releases. Ledet's tribute to his legendary family and the music that
influenced him is loaded with life and energy.....both traditional
and modern at the same time.
Gerald McClendon - Let's Have A Party!
(Delta Roots Records): If vintage soul, blues, and R&B is your bag,
look no further.
Tedeschi Trucks Band - Layla Revisited
(Live at Lockn') (Fantasy Records): Not many bands would dare to
take on the Derek and the Dominos classic, but TTB is more than up
to the task (with an assist from Trey Anastasio and Doyle Bramhall
II) and while it doesn't make you forget the original, it certainly
deserves a place next to it.
Veronica Lewis - You Ain't Unlucky
(Blue Heart Records): Another firebrand piano player, 17-year-old
Lewis is a force of nature on this wild and varied set of
Dwayne Dopsie - Set Me Free (Louisiana
Red Hot Records): This disc reminded me why I started listening to
zydeco in the first place. Dopsie does a wonderful job, mixing in
just enough soul and blues while keeping you dancing.
Robbin Kapsalis & Vintage #18 - Soul
Shaker (Bird Song Records): Kapsalis is one of the strongest
vocalist currently practicing in the blues and soul genres. It
certainly helps that she's backed by one of the tightest bands
currently practicing as well.
Christone "Kingfish" Ingram - 662
(Alligator Records): Ingram expands on his sound with some excellent
songwriting and weaving some soul and R&B into his blues. Don't
sweat it though.....there's still plenty of his powerhouse guitar
Guy King - Joy Is Coming (IBF
Records): King's first release since 2016 is an inspired, stunning
work that encompasses blues, soul, jazz, and vintage R&B. Well worth
the wait for a soul-satisfying experience.
Sean Chambers - That's What I'm Talkin'
About: A Tribute to Hubert Sumlin (Quarto Valley Records):
Chambers presents a powerhouse blues rock set paying tribute to one
of his biggest influences and, as a bonus, Sumlin's chief employer
New Moon Jelly Roll Freedom Rockers - Vol.
2 (Stony Plain Records): The second volume of this super session
from 2007 featuring Jim, Luther, and Cody Dickinson, Alvin
Youngblood Hart, Jimbo Mathus, and Charlie Musselwhite is as much
fun as the first volume.