Blues Bytes

Pick Hit

January 2013

an associate


Another year of Blues Bytes--- our 16th(!) --- is in the books, and it's been a good one for Blues CDs. As usual, we use the January Pick Hit to feature the reviewers' Top Ten Lists for the past year.

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)


Bill Mitchell (editor of Blues Bytes)

Here's my list of ten favorite CDs from 2012. Enjoy!

1) Curtis Salgado - Soul Shot (Alligator Records)
"In your face" soulful blues from this veteran blues brother from the Northwest.

2) Mud Morganfield - Son of the Seventh Son (Severn Records)
Morganfield sounds so much like his father that I had to keep looking at the CD credits to make sure they didn't sneak in some old recordings from Muddy.

3) Johnny Rawls - Soul Survivor (Catfood Records)
He keeps out putting good CD after good CD --- this man needs to be famous!

4) Ryan Shaw - Real Love (Dynatone Records)
Real Love is a strong follow-up to Shaw's amazing 2007 debut, This is Ryan Shaw. Classic soul at its best!

5) Michael Burks - Show of Strength (Alligator Records)
A bittersweet release from a man who left us far too soon.

6) Mannish Boys - Double Dynamite (Delta Groove Music)
The only thing better than a new CD from this Southern California supergroup is a double CD!

7) Shemekia Copeland - 33 1/3 (Telarc Records)
Powerful blues set by one of the best contemporary singers on the scene today! "Hangin' Up" is worth the price by itself.

8) Tail Dragger & Bob Corritore - Longtime Friends in the Blues (Delta Groove)
Tail Dragger summons the spirit of Howlin' Wolf for this solid set of Chicago blues.

9) The 24th Street Wailers - Unshakeable (The 24th Street Wailers)
This independent release from Canada was one of this year's biggest surprises. Great singing!

10) The Blasters - Fun On Saturday Night (Ruf Records)
Their bluesiest release yet but the format is still all over the map ... just like it should be with these talented cats. An added bonus is the Spanish language remake of their early roots rock hit "Marie Marie."


Tim Holek (reviewer from Canada)

Rick Estrin and the Nightcats - One Wrong Turn
Lil' Ed and The Blues Imperials - Jump Start
Joe Louis Walker - Hellfire
Curtis Salgado - Soul Shot
Smokin' Joe Kubek & Bnois King - Close To The Bone
Billy Boy Arnold - Billy Boy Arnold Sings Big Bill Broonzy
The Mannish Boys - Double Dynamite
Barbara Carr - Keep The Fire Burning
Eddie C. Campbell - Spider Eatin' Preacher
Linsey Alexander - Been There Done That

--- Tim Holek
Freelance Journalist (
Great Lakes Blues Society Media Relations Coordinator (


Graham Clarke (reviewer from Mississippi)

Milton Hopkins & Jewel Brown - Milton Hopkins & Jewel Brown (Dialtone): A wonderful recording from two living legends of the Houston blues scene. Hopkins’ superlative fretwork compliments Ms. Brown’s raw and earthy vocals perfectly. This is easily the crowning achievement of Dialtone’s impressive catalog of recordings.

Linsey AlexanderBeen There Done That (Delmark): A longtime vet of the Windy City’s blues scene, Alexander proves to be a formidable all-around talent with his debut recording for Delmark….one of many winners from Delmark during 2012.

Various Artists – We Juke Up In Here (Broke & Hungry/Cat Head): A look at what’s left of Mississippi’s juke joint scene (via DVD and CD) from Roger Stolle and Jeff Konkel. There are some great tunes from some familiar and not-so-familiar Mississippi blues artists.

Mannish BoysDouble Dynamite (Delta Groove): A double-disc effort from an all-star band that covers traditional blues and R&B-based blues, it’s a bit heavy on cover tunes. However, when they’re this well done, it’s not a problem at all.

Tweed FunkLove Is (Tweed Tone Records): This great little band from Wisconsin mixes blues, swing, and funk in equal doses, and they do them all extraordinarily well.

Larry Garner Blues For Sale (DixieFrog): This may be Garner’s best release yet. It features some great songs, a tight backing band, and a definite Louisiana vibe. Plus it features some of Garner’s best songs yet, which is really saying something.

Johnny RawlsSoul Survivor (Catfood): I like my soul blues a bit on the retro side. Rawls fits that mold perfectly…his approach is modern enough, but the reverence for the deep southern soul of artists like his mentor O.V. Wright shines through on every track.

Michael BurksShow of Strength (Alligator): Burks’ final release ranks with his best, showcasing lots of powerhouse guitar work, plus a version of Charlie Rich’s “Feel Like Goin’ Home” that is actually more hopeful than somber. We’ll miss him, but he certainly went out on a high note.

Dennis JonesMy Kinda Blues (Blue Rock): Blues/rock of the highest order. Jones blows the doors off with 13 tunes, 12 originals, on this stellar set. Also, don’t miss his recent DVD, Live at Temecula Theatre, for a mesmerizing live performance.

Willie BuckCell Phone Man (Delmark): Another mainstay of the Chicago blues scene, Buck has released probably the best set of traditional Chicago blues in a long time. Blending his own original tunes with classic covers of several Muddy Waters songs, Buck shows he has a grasp on the genre as strong as or stronger than anybody else currently performing.

Next Ten (in no particular order): Eddie C. Campbell Spider Eating Preacher (Delmark), Beth McKeeNext To Nowhere (Swampgirl Music), Sista Jean and C.B.Back To The Root (Freckled Bandit Records), Eric BibbDeeper in the Well (Stony Plain), Mud MorganfieldSon of the Seventh Son (Severn), The FremontsLive at the Woodpit (Truax Records), Cee Cee JamesBlood Red Blues (FWG Records), Smokin’ Joe Kubek & Bnois KingClose to the Bone (Delta Groove), Memphis GoldPickin’ In High Cotton (Stackhouse Recording Co), Ian SiegalCandy Store Kid (Nugene Records)


Kyle Deibler (Regular Blues Bytes reviewer now living in Colorado)

2012 was a year of outstanding releases from a number of artists, both old and new. Definitely a tremendous year of outstanding music from various Blues artists for all of us to enjoy. So here’s my top ten with a couple of honorable mentions thrown in for good measure.

1. Janiva MagnessStronger For It. Those of us who know Janiva realize the personal courage she’s showed us in releasing this record. A triumph for Janiva on a personal level with some writer’s credits thrown in for good measure, my pick for record of the year.

2. Robert CrayNothin But Love. Easily Robert’s finest release in probably the last 10 years, I loved this disc front cover to cover.

3. Tedeschi Trucks BandLive (Everybody’s Talkin’). Their live performance at Red Rocks here in Colorado this year was by far the best show I was able to see this year. Just an amazing collaboration between Derek, Susan and everyone in the band.

4. Bettye LavetteThankful N’ Thoughtful. I’m grateful every day for my introduction to Bettye Lavette and her music. How and why she toiled in relative obscurity for close to 40 years is one of the great mysteries of my generation.

5. Michael BurksShow of Strength. I don’t know how else to say, I miss my friend. Fortunately he left us a legacy record to remember him by. Rest in peace, my friend.

6. Curtis SalgadoSoul Shot. Phenomenal disc from Curtis. I was fortunate to see him on the road this summer in Springfield, Missouri, and it was easily one of the top four performances I’ve seen all year.

7. Billy Boy ArnoldSings Bill Broonzy. Just a stellar disc of Billy Boy paying homage to one of his influences. My favorite acoustic album of the year by far.

8. Royal Southern Brotherhood – Self titled. Whoever stirred the pot of gumbo that generated RSB did us all a favor. The Brotherhood of Cyril Neville, Devon Allman, Mike Zito, Charlie Wooton and Yonrico Scott delivered a show this summer at Blues from the Top that has stayed with me all year. The finale of dueling guitars with Devon, Mike and Samantha Fish was one of the highlights of the year. Glad to know they’ll be back in Colorado shortly.

9. The NighthawksDamn Good Time. These guys have grown on me and have definitely earned their way into the rotation on my CD player. They were outstanding on the recent Blues Cruise and Mark Wenner’s set with the North Mississippi All-Stars was to die for.

10. Heritage Blues OrchestraAnd Still I Rise. This debut disc has already garnered many new fans and award nominations. I think the Rochester Democrat & Gazette said it best, “This is a new band with the swank of New Orleans, the urgent honk of Chicago, the ache of the chain gang.” I’m looking forward to seeing them soon!

Honorable mentions go out to Deanna BogartPianoland, Shemekia Copeland33 1/3, Walter Trout Blues for the Modern Daze, Ruthie FosterLet It Burn, Michael Jerome BrowneThe Road is Dark, and Paula Harris Turning On The Naughty.


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