Blues Bytes

Pick Hit

January 2023

 

The blues recording scene was again very strong in 2022, with more outstanding albums then can fit on a list. I'm also recently discovering  albums that didn't get to us during the year, some that would have been at least Top 30 picks.  I continue to be impressed by the plethora of young artists releasing solid blues stuff.

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. These aren't necessarily the best or most popular albums of the year, but more ones that were particular favorites of mine.

Buddy Guy1) Buddy Guy - The Blues Don't Lie  (Silvertone)
He's a blues legend still around at the age of 86 and shows no signs of his age. This one has a whopping 16 cuts, with guests like Bobby Rush, Mavis Staples, Jason Isbell, and more. "Gunsmoke Blues" It should be required listening for every politician taking money from the gun lobby.

2) Dylan Triplett - Who Is He? (VizzTone)
The biggest surprise of the year, with the 21-year-old soul/blues singer a star in the making.

3) Yates McKendree - Buchanan Lane (Qualified Records)
Another blues youngster at 21 with a great debut album. The son of keyboardist Kevin McKendree has an old school sound to his blues, and is one heck of a good guitar player.

4) John Németh - May Be The Last Time (Nola Blue Records) / The Love Light Orchestra - Leave The Light On (Nola Blue Records)
I'm cheating here by packing two albums into one ranking. With health issues putting Németh's career in question, it's great that we got both of these outstanding albums this year.

5) Bob Corritore & Friends - You Shocked Me (SWMAF / VizzTone)
These studio gatherings of Corritore's pals are always a treat. This one's no exception, with outstanding performances by Diunna Greenleaf, Sugaray Rayford, Francine Reed, Alabama Mike, Johnny Rawls, Bob Stroger, Bill Perry, John Primer, Willie Buck, and Jimi "Primetime" Smith.

6)  Markey Blue - Ric Latina Project - Jumpin' The Broom (soulOsound Records)
While I've known the name Markey Blue for some years, this newest album was the first to come my way. Ms. Markey's singing and Latina's guitar playing are such a good combination that I had to search out some of her previous releases, Jumpin' The Broom is one of my favorites from 2022.

7) Malaya Blue - Blue Credentials (Blue Heart Records)
Impressive release by British singer who seamlessly combines blues, blues/rock, soul, and jazz sounds. The late Dennis Walker had his hand in writing many of the songs here and producing this album shortly before he passed away. It took Walker 30 years to get an artist to record the very haunting and disturbing "Howlin' Mercy."

8) Shemekia Copeland - Done Come Too Far (Alligator Records)
Another outstanding album by one of the best in the business, with topical songs like "Too Far To Be Gone" and "Pink Turns To Red" among the highlights.

9) Angela Strehli - Ace Of Blues (New West Records / Antone Records)
Still sounding great at 76, Ms. Strehli pays tributes to the many singers who influenced her over her career. Her version of O.V. Wright's "Ace Of Spades" is an absolute gem.

10) Vaneese Thomas - Fight The Good Fight (Blue Heart Records)
This was my first album from Ms. Thomas, and it turned out to not be the last one I acquired. Great Memphis blues and soul from a member of Memphis soul royalty.

11) Jose Ramirez - Major League Blues (Delmark Records)
Sorry for not stopping at 10 favorite albums, but I need to get this one on my list. The fact that Jimmy Johnson contributed to the recordings makes it even more essential.

Other equally outstanding albums from 2022:

Silent Partners - Changing Times (Little Village Foundation)

Phantom Blues Band - Blues For Breakfast (Little Village Foundation)

Trudy Lynn - Golden Girl (Nola Blue Records)

Diunna Greenleaf - I Ain't Playin' (Little Village Foundation)

LJ Mounteney - Mama Danced (self-released)

Crystal Shawanda - Midnight Blues (True North Records)

Rory Block - Ain't Nobody Worried (Stony Plain Records)

Vanessa Collier - Live At Power Station (Phenix Fire Records)

Bob Stroger - That's My Name (Delmark Records)

John Primer - Hard Times (Blues House Productions)

Keb' Mo' - Good To Be ... (Rounder)

Angela Easley - Rise (self-released)

Duke Robillard - They Called It Rhythm & Blues (Stony Plain Records)

Gina Sicilia - Unchange (VizzTone)

Demetria Taylor - Doin' What I'm Supposed To Do (Delmark Records)

The Texas Horns - Everybody Let's Roll (Blue Heart Records)

Ben Levin - Take Your Time (VizzTone)

Eric Demmer - So Fine (Gulf Coast Blues)

Grant Dermody - Behind The Sun (independent)


 

Graham Clarke (reviewer from Mississippi)


I listed these on my blog at the end of the year and promised to reduce it to my Top Ten for Blues Bytes, but I just couldn’t find a way to reduce it to just ten (It took forever to reduce it to 20). 2022 was such a great year for new releases and new artists that I had to share them all.

Rick Berthod - Tribute to Peter Green: Nevada-based guitarist Berthod does a great job interpreting these tunes that the underrated British guitarist recorded with the early, blues-based edition of Fleetwood Mac. Like any good tribute album, this will please longtime fans of Green, lead newcomers to check out the original works, and encourage them to check out more of Berthod's impressive catalog, too.

Chris Canas - Detroit (Third Street Cigar Records): The Motor City's "Prince of the Blues" made the finals of the 2020 I.B.C.'s and this release shows what the fuss was all about. A powerful vocalist and guitarist and a good songwriter, this album (his eighth) really serves as his mission statement. He's here to play his brand of blues --- contemporary blues with flourishes of rock, soul, funk, even reggae -- his way.

The Dig 3 - It always puts a hop in my step to see a new album of old-school blues played well, or in this case, extremely well. Andrew Duncanson of Kilborn Alley Blues Band teams up with harp master Ronnie Shellist and multi-instrumentalist Gerry Hundt on this superb set of original tunes that pays tribute to the great blues tunes and artists of yesteryear. Part of the reason this set works so well is the sheer love and enthusiasm these guys have for every tune.

Ronnie Earl and the Broadcasters - Mercy Me (Stony Plain Records): This is Earl's 28th album and one of his best, with support from his outstanding band and several guest stars. Evenly split between originals and covers, Earl's guitar work continues to dazzle, on both electric and acoustic, while Diane Blue continues to be one of the best vocalists currently practicing.

The Love Light Orchestra - Leave The Light On (Nola Blue Records): I have a soft spot for the great sounds of Memphis blues and R&B of the '50s and '60s, and so do the members of The Love Light Orchestra, a nine-piece band of Memphis-area musicians fronted by vocalist John Németh, a master of the soul and blues genre whose voice is tailor-made for this sound. Their second release is made up of nearly all original tunes that seem to be pulled from a '50s/'60s-era jukebox and the performances will put goose bumps on your goose bumps.

Trudy Lynn - Golden Girl (Nola Blue Records): Over 25 years ago, I met a guy from Houston on the old Blues Access bulletin board. He turned me on to a lot of great music from the Houston area that I had previously not heard, including Ms. Trudy Lynn. What an amazing singer and talent, and she's backed by an incredible set of musicians on this excellent set. Ms. Trudy just rips through this set and leaves you waiting breathlessly for her next one.

John Mayall - The Sun Is Shining Down (Forty Below Records): The King of British Blues stepped back from touring in late 2021, but he's still recording, releasing this album earlier this year. There are several guest guitarists on this set, including Melvin Taylor, Mike Campbell, and Marcus King, but he's got the phenomenal Carolyn Wonderland playing guitar throughout the session, the latest addition to his band. Mayall recently turned 89, but he sounds like he's got a few more great albums left in him.

Delbert McClinton - Outdated Emotion (Hot Shot Records/Thirty Tigers): McClinton also retired from touring last year, but he continues to record. His 27th studio release is a collection of songs by artists who influenced him over his 65+year career, and it's a ton of fun. Most listeners will know the songs here from Lloyd Price, Jimmy Reed, Hank Williams, Little Richard, John Lee Hooker, Ray Charles, plus a few McClinton tracks as well, and they will be singing along having nearly as much fun as McClinton and the band probably did.

Larry McCray - Blues Without You (KTBA Records): McCray has had some hard luck since the late '90s. Most of his early releases are out of print and his later recordings are hard to track down, but he's continued to play and perform. Fortunately, he connected with Joe Bonamassa and Josh Smith, and they produced this fantastic comeback, which may be the best example of McCray's artistry to date, covering blues, soul, and rock in equal measures. That thunderous voice and guitar work is as strong as it was 30 years ago, and hopefully this is the beginning of a better streak of luck for this underappreciated blues man.

Yates McKendree - Buchanan Lane (Qualified Records): While you listen to this album, and you really should, keep in mind that this young man is 21 years old. McKendree, the son of piano player Kevin McKendree, has released a most impressive album of originals and covers with nods to B.B. King, T-Bone Walker, and Guitar Slim, to just name a few. A talented singer and guitarist, this young man has a bright future and so does the blues world.

Mississippi Heat - Madeleine (Van der Linden Recordings): Harp master Pierre Lacocque and his associates (including vocalists Inetta Visor and Daneshia Hamilton, guitarists Giles Corey and Michael Dotson) are joined by a host of guest artists (Carl Weathersby, Lurrie Bell, Kenny "Beedy Eyes" Smith, and Johnny Iguana, among others) on this typically excellent set of original tunes. A true collaborative effort and one of the band's best ever.

John Németh - May Be The Last Time (Nola Blue Records): Nemeth's second appearance on this list finds the singer teaming with Kid Andersen, Elvin Bishop, and Alabama Mike for a stunning session recorded at Greaseland. Németh is facing a long recovery from cancer surgery that required reconstruction of his lower jaw and could prevent him from singing and playing harmonica in the future. Németh sounds awesome on these tracks, both vocally and on harp, and the supporting cast is fabulous as well. Proceeds from the sales of this album are going toward Németh's numerous medical bills, so there's even more incentive to give this one a listen, besides the fact that it's an excellent release.

The Phantom Blues Band - Blues For Breakfast (Little Village Foundation): One of the finest modern blues bands turned out a winner with this year's release, a wide-ranging set of blues and soul covers with guest appearances from Ruthie Foster, Bonnie Raitt, Curtis Salgado, and Kelly Finnigan, whose late father, Mike, was a member (and also appears on one track). These guys have backed nearly everybody that's anybody in the blues world and it's nice that they get to have the spotlight for themselves for a change.

John Primer - Hard Times (Blues House Productions): Primer has gone from one of the genre's young talents to one of the seasoned veterans of the scene since I started listening to the blues. His latest album is a well-crafted set of traditional and contemporary Chicago blues recorded with his Real Deal Blues Band and a guest appearance from Primer's daughter, Aliya. Primer continues to be a force of nature on the Windy City blues scene.

Jose Ramirez - Major League Blues (Delmark Records): Ramirez is officially in the big leagues after releasing this marvelous album, his Delmark debut. The Costa Rican blues man is joined by the late Jimmy Johnson, on what would be his final recording, and the Delmark All-Star Band on this stellar set. Ramirez is one of the finest blues guitarist and vocalist currently practicing and this set is just outstanding.

Silent Partners - Changing Times (Little Village Foundation): In the late '80s, guitarist Mel Brown, drummer Tony Coleman, and bassist Russell Jackson released a fine album that was a forgotten gem. Sadly, Brown passed away in 2009, but Coleman and Jackson added Memphis guitarist Jonathan Ellison for the sequel. He proves to be a worthy successor as guitarist and vocalist. Hopefully, the new trio won't wait another 30 years for their next collaboration.

Angela Strehli - Ace of Blues (New West/Antone's Records): This one brought a big smile to my face. I've always enjoyed Ms. Strehli's powerful vocals on her albums. It's been a while since I've heard anything and this release really hit the spot, as she pays tribute to the songs and musicians who were such an influence throughout her long career. It's a great set of tunes, most of them you'll know, and she and the band have a blast performing them. The liner notes are wonderful, too, loaded with pictures and Strehli's comments about each song and artist.

Demetria Taylor - Doin' What I'm Supposed To Do (Delmark Records): Taylor is the daughter of the late Chicago blues legend Eddie Taylor. Ms. Taylor toiled on this album for two and a half years, dealing with family losses and the pandemic in between, but it was well worth the wait. She has a smooth, refined vocal delivery that is downright refreshing, and she is comfortable singing blues, soul, and R&B. She's also backed by a powerhouse band, including Mike Wheeler, Billy Flynn, and Carlos Showers on guitar.

The Texas Horns - Everybody Let's Roll (Blue Heart Records): Mark "Kaz" Kazanoff, John Mills, and Al Gomez return with their third great set of horn-driven blues numbers. They're supported by an all-star cast of guest artists, including Jimmie Vaughan, Anson Funderburgh, Caroline Wonderland, Johnny Moeller, Mike Flanigin, Marcia Ball, Mike Zito, and Guy Forsyth, to name just a few. This is a well-rounded set of tunes that reminded me a lot of the old Black Top Records releases of the '80s and '90s (several of these artists are alumni of the much-missed label).

Dylan Triplett - Who Is He? (VizzTone Records): Last, but certainly not least on my list is this superb release from another 21-year-old, St. Louis vocalist Dylan Triplett. He comes from a musical family and has been singing over half of his life. He has a confidence and maturity of someone 20 years older. This set includes songs from Lonnie Brooks, Jimmy McCracklin, and Marvin Gaye, plus an amazing interpretation of Miles Davis' "All Blues," plus appearances from Christone "Kingfish" Ingram and members of the Phantom Blues Band (bassist Larry Fulcher produced).
 

 

 

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