Time for the annual "Best of" list, and I need to say at the start that this has been a great year for blues releases. The quality of the music that came to me this year is higher than 2012, higher than I expected. There were still several who were more rock than blues, but for the most part there are a number of really good artists out there working hard writing and performing really good music. The following cds are my favorites from an excellent year. And before I get to the list, I need to say thank you to all the musicians, PR people, the venues that support the music, and blues fans out there. This music we all love is meant to be heard live. Go hear some blues as often as you can. Spend a few dollars at the venue. Cheer yourself hoarse. Get to know some players. It's all good for your soul!
12. David Egan -- David Egan. (Indy) See my review October 29, 2013. Egan's best release in an over twenty year career. He wrote all the songs, and his singing and piano playing are better than ever.
11. Steve Howell & The Mighty Men -- Yes I Believe I Will (Out Of The Past Records) Like the David Egan cd, this is a masterpiece by a very fine musician and musicologist. Steve Howell is one of the very best acoustic guitarists of our time. The liner notes on Howell's cds are terrific in their own right.
10. Solomon King -- Train (Indy) See my review October 29, 2013.
9. Nicole Hart/Annie Piper -- Split Second (Blues Leaf Records) I have followed Nicole Hart since
2006. I love her voice, and I didn't exactly know what to expect with this release. But from the first song "Can't Let You Go" this cd just hooked me. Everything I love about Nicole Hart is here, and Annie Piper plays bass and sings great. Great songs, and the band is one of those all-star groupings: Ron Rauso and Juke Joint Jonny on guitar, Sandy Mack on harmonica, John Ginty on keyboards, Annie Piper on bass and Sim Cain on drums. "Dream Baby," a terrific cover from Roy Orbison's heyday, is just icing on the cake. Sweet!!
8. See note below.
7. The Planetary Blues Band -- Once Upon A Time In The South Loop" (Indy) This group from Indiana has spent a lot of time in Chicago and on the road. They have an attractive abundance of energy and talent and plenty of chops. This cd showcases a band on the way up. Check out their cover of Blind Lemon Jefferson's "See That My Grave Is Kept Clean."
6. The Mojo Roots -- "What Kind Of Fool" (Indy) These guys are not a hometown choice. They were 2013 IBC semi-finalists. The Mojo Roots have created a fresh spin on a soulful blues sound. See my review March 18, 2013.
5. Andy T - Nick Nixon Band -- "Drink Drank Drunk" (Delta Groove) This pairing of Nick Nixon's great Memphis-based vocals and Andy Talamantez' Texas-based guitar sounds from the first note like they have worked together for decades. They haven't--but their blend is fabulous. And the rest of the band is stellar, too--Anson Funderburgh, John Garza, Christian Dozzler, Danny Cochran, Ron Jones.
If you read liner notes, those guys have together and separately played with damn near everybody over the years. I seriously hope they get to make a follow-up cd in 2014.
4. Cyril Neville -- Magic Honey (Ruf) This release feels to me like the 2012 release of Joe Louis Walker's "Hellfire." It is so obvious that Cyril Neville's cd belongs on this list. From my first listen this was near the top of the heap--and all year long everybody gave it their best shot, but almost nobody could knock it off that perch. The only two who did were:
2. Trampled Under Foot -- "Badlands" (Indy) This cd debuted at # 1 on the Billboard blues charts. Danielle, Kris and Nick Schnebelen have made their strongest cd so far. Produced by Tony Braunagel, with guest appearances by Mike Finnigan and engineer/guitarist Johnny Lee Schell.
1. Buddy Guy -- "Rhythm & Blues" ( RCA) See my review July 31, 2013. Top of my list all year.
Note: One cd which would have made this list--and did, in early drafts--but eventually had to be dropped was The Ruff Kutt Blues Band -- "That's When The Blues Begins" (Vizztone). This would have been # 8 in this list. The quality is there without a doubt, but then I looked closer and the cd was released in 2012.
After much thought and hearing hundreds of songs, Bruce's Song Of The Year is by The F & G Band, on the cd "Pass It On" (Indy) "Untie That Knot." See my review July 22, 2013.