Before I begin with this annual rite of passage, I need to say a few thank yous. Thank you to Deb and everybody at Goldradio.net for letting me play the blues on your internet radio station every Thursday. Thank you to the Promotors and Record Company folks who have sent me some wonderful music this year. And thanks most of all to the artists who make the music.
I've reviewed more music this year than I ever have before, and I still haven't reviewed but about half of what I've received. My plan in this humble blog all along has been to point you in print, dear readers, towards the best of the good stuff. So here is my Top 20 for 2012. And remember if you might like something I've listed here, on Thursday January 3, 2013 from 4-7pm EST I'll be playing selections from these cds on my show at the internet radio station http://www.goldradio.net
21. Ian Siegal and The Mississippi Mudbloods -- Candy Store Kid (Nugene Records)
A really good blend of English and Hill Country blues--blended but not smooth. Loads of
invention, passion, and soul. Even better than 2011's "The Skinny."
20. John Nemeth -- Blues Live (Indy)
A souvenir from seeing him live back in the summer. It was funny--I lived in Atlanta GA for
five years and he was never there. Then I move to a small town in Missouri and he came
here and did a great show for about 20 people.
19. James Buddy Rogers -- My Guitar's My Only Friend
Would be higher on this list if I had gotten it earlier in the year. Great singer, great guitar player.
18. Zac Harmon -- Music Is Medicine (Urban Eagle)
I've loved Zac Harmon's music ever since 2005's The Blues According To Zacariah. This is his
best work yet, but I look forward to the next one. This just barely edged out Robert Cray's
"Nothing But Love" which was a terrific return to form.
17. Otis Spann -- Someday (Silk City Records)
These previously unreleased performances jump out of the speakers. One of the greatest blues
piano players of all time. Otis played in one of the greatest bands of all time--with Muddy
Waters--from 1952-1968. A big thanks to Silk City Records for releasing this.
16. Delta Moon -- Black Cat Oil (Indy)
See my review August 17.
15. Fred Kaplan -- Hold My Mule (Regal Radio Records)
Best piano blues music I heard all year. With Junior Watson, Kedar Roy, Richard Innis and
the terrific Gordon Beadle. See my review August 25.
14. The 44s -- Americana (Rip Cat Records)
Got this one from my friend Chris Puyear. Thanks Chris. See my review December 11.
13. JoAnne Shaw Taylor -- Almost Always Never (Ruf Records)
See my review November 16.
12. Altered Five -- Gotta Earn It (Conclave Records)
This came to me late in the year but it deserves to be on this list. Jeff Taylor has a great voice,
Jeff Schroedl plays guitar like he is earning his next meal, and the rhythm section of Scott
Schroedl and Mark Solveson drive the music with power and taste. Music like this is why I love
the blues. 2012's version of Root Doctor's 2007 release "Change our Ways." Review forthcoming.
11. Omar & The Howlers -- Too Much Is Not Enough (Big Guitar Music)
See my review of "I'm Gone" October 17. These guys have been a staple in my life for over 25
years, and since November 2011 they have released the 2 cd set "Essential" and single cds "I'm
Gone" and "Too Much Is Not Enough." Omar Kent Dykes is the best singer of Jimmy Reed
songs out there--nobody can touch him.
10. Janiva Magness -- Stronger For It (Alligator Records)
See my review April 3.
9. Chris Watson Band -- Pleasure And Pain (Gator Music)
The best Texas style blues cd of the year. These guys are on the RISE. See my review July 7.
8. Shemekia Copeland -- 33 1/3 (Telarc)
This is the best cd so far from Shemekia, backed by Oliver Wood on guitar, Ted Peccio on
bass, and Gerry Hanson on drums. Buddy Guy and J J Grey guest. Could easily be rated higher.
Nominated for Grammy Blues Album of The Year. Review forthcoming.
7. Cee Cee James -- Blood Red Blues (FWG Records)
A staple in my cd player. Cee Cee is terrific, backed here by a really good band including Chris
Leighton on drums, Dan Mohler on bass, Susan Julian on keyboards, Rob "Slideboy" Andrews
and Rocky Athas on guitars. See my review July 28.
6. Albert Castliglia -- Living The Dream (Blues Leaf)
I looked forward to this cd for a long time, and it lived up to the anticipation. Saw him in concert
locally in September--he and his band played for over 2 hours for about 15 people. I hope Blues
Leaf will add the live single "Drown In My Own Tears" to this cd. See my review June 19.
5. Rory Block -- I Belong To The Band (Stony Plain)
A wonderful presentation of songs of Rev Gary Davis. See my review June 20.
4. Chris O'Leary Band -- Waiting For The Phone To Ring (Fidellis Records)
A very fine release. These guys' career should be taking off now. See my review Dec 16.
3. Mud Morganfield -- Son Of The Seventh Son (Severn Records)
The best Chicago style blues cd of the year. Just barely beat out Big James & The Chicago
Playboys "The Big Payback." See my review March 5.
2. Michael Burks -- Show Of Strength (Alligator Records)
This posthumous release is even better than "Iron Man." The best work of Burks' career, which
makes his passing even more sad. Strong singing, strong guitar, strong songs. Review
1. Maria Muldaur et all -- First Came Memphis Minnie (Stony Plain)
I love Maria Muldaur. A terrific set. Great songs, great singers, great playing. See my review
Now that Bruce's Top Twenty is out there, I guess I should announce Bruce's Song Of The Year.
I heard more than 540 songs this year, many of them more than once, and a certain few of those stayed in my head in a good way. The final list of top contenders include these great songs:
Michael Burks' "Feel Like Going Home,"
Ian Siegal & The Mississippi Mudbloods "Green Power,"
Maria Muldaur "Me & My Chauffeur Blues,"
Shemekia Copeland's "Can't Let Go,"
Nathan James & The Rhythm Scratchers "What You Make Of It,"
Chris Watson Band "Hard Luck Woman,"
Lance Lopez's "Black Cat Moan."
But after giving it a lot of thought, my song of the year is Albert Castiglia's "I Want Her For Myself."