Blues Bytes

Pick Hit

January 2022


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 year.

Thanks to both our regular reviewers and our readers for your support of the blues!

--- Bill Mitchell (Editor/Publisher of Blues Bytes)


Bill Mitchell (editor of Blues Bytes)

Here's my top 10 from 2021 plus another 20 noteworthy albums in no particular order.

Christone Kingfish Ingram1) 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 Village)
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 environment.

6) Tia Carroll - You Gotta Have It (Little Village)
This was my first album from Ms. Carroll and, oh my, she can really belt the blues.

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.

8) 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 original compositions.

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 latest album.

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 Man's World."

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 Place/BMG)
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 alone.

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 York.

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.



Graham Clarke (reviewer from Mississippi)

Top Ten Releases for 2021 (In no particular order)

Rodd BlandRodd 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'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 piano-driven blues.

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 present.

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 as well.

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.




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