Saturday, January 2, 2016

Best Blues of 2015

A few words towards the blog post I would like to write--

Dear readers, I have woefully neglected this blog in 2015, and I have no excuses. I got out of the habit of writing it is all. There was a lot of great music made in 2015, and I loved a lot of it--so let me take a stab at sharing my favorites of 20-15.

12.  Billy Hector -- Old School Thang  (reviewed May 26)

11.  Jeff Jensen -- Morose Elephant  (Swingsuit Records) This cd illustrated for me all the potential of the great city of Memphis. When a good songwriter and a good batch of songs come together with the great talent of that city,  powerfully good music can be the result. The seven original songs and four covers are all excellent. Jensen is on vocals and guitar--abetting him are Victor Wainwright on piano and vocals, Ann Harris on violin, long-time bassist Bill Ruffulo, Reba Russell on backing vocals, Kirk Smothers and Mark Franklin on horns, Eric Hughes and Gary Allegretto on harmonica and Christ Stephenson on additional keyboards, along with James Cunningham on drums. A top-notch effort all around. My favorite song is "What's The Matter With The Mill," a duet featuring Jensen and Wainwright over a rollicking piano.

10.  Jim Singleton -- Eight O'Clock In The Afternoon (reviewed May 25)

9.  Steve Earle & The Dukes -- Terraplane  (New West) I have loved the music of Steve Earle since 1986's Guitar Town. Early on, it was obvious to me that the man would eventually make a blues album--and when he did, it was going to be stunner. Well, this is that album. On his website is a review that puts it all well: " Terraplane is his Texas blues album, an homage to the likes of Lightnin' Hopkins and Mance Lipscomb, Robert Johnson and Stevie Ray Vaughn, Freddy King and ZZ Top." My favorite song is "King of The Blues," on which Earle comes closer than he ever has to sounding like the son of Ray Wylie Hubbard. 

8.  Samantha Fish -- Wild Heart (Ruf) When I moved from Atlanta to Colombia Missouri in 2012 I had to give up a lot of things. My old stomping grounds included Blind Willie's, where I could see incredible blues talent up close and personal on a regular basis. And then when I moved to metro Kansas City in 2014, I knew Samantha Fish was one of the highlights of this fine city. Blues Music Award for 2016 Nomination for the Best Contemporary Female. I have watched her from the beginning of her career, and with Chris Alexander on bass and Go Go Ray on drums, Samantha has her best band ever. As a result, Wild Heart is a BIG step forward. There is no telling how high and how far Samantha Fish can go. My favorite song is "Go Home," a heartfelt acoustic story-song.

7.  Rusty Wright Band -- Wonder Man  (Sadson) The Rusty Wright Band have made a string of strong albums, but Wonder Man is the best thing they've done so far. Rusty Wright writes all the songs. The band consists of Rusty Wright on guitar and vocals, Laurie LaCross-Wright on guitar and vocals, Dennis Bellinger on bass and vocals, Robert John Manzitti on organ, piano, synth, and vocals, and Marc Friedman on drums. They get additional cudos for being road warriors--they are best live and they're on the road almost all the time somewhere. My favorite song here is "Corvette Sunday," which features a beautiful Allman-esque twin guitar break that will make your heart soar.

6.  Dave Spector -- Message In Blue  (reviewed May 25)

5.  Eddie Cotton --  One At A Time (DeChamp) Eddie Cotton won the 2015 International Blues Challenge in 2015, which illustrates the level of talent the man possesses. A lot of that talent can be heard on One At A Time. Like Samantha Fish, this is his second terrific release in a row after 2014's Here I Come. Cotton wrote all the songs, and he is again backed by Myron Bennett on bass and Samuel Scott Jr on drums and percussion Guests include Grady Champion and Carlos Russell on harmonica, James "Hotdog" Lewis on organ, The Jackson Horns, and JJ Thames on backing vocals. My favorite song is "Dead End Street," a soulful tour de force that reminds me of the great ZZ Hill. In my opinion, Eddie is one of the top talents anywhere in the blues right now.

4.  Sonny Landreth -- Bound By The Blues (Mascot Music Productions) Sonny Landreth has developed over the past 15+ years into the most amazing slide guitar player around. Assisted this time out by drummer Brian Brignac and bassist David Ranson, Bound By The Blues is a stripped-down, back-to-the-blues set that lets Landreth's talents shine. I've never been a fan of his voice, but this time that is not as much an impediment as it was on earlier albums. Whenever people want to brag about how great Joe Bonamassa is, I just point them to Sonny Landreth. Favorite song is "Key To The Highway."

3.  Gary Clark Jr -- The Story Of Sonny Boy Slim  (Warner Brothers) It feels like Gary Clark Jr has made a whole stack of super good music in 2014 and 2015--the Live set was prime, and to follow that up with this album really boggles my mind. Add in that he played Eric Clapton's Crossroads Festival, and The White House, and it looks even more monumental. Take some time off, already! Judging all that music together, Clark has taken giant steps towards fulfilling the potential that was laid on him several years ago. His work incorporates elements of gospel, and rock, and jazz--and because of that he annoys the blues purists--but Gary is a terrific musician and quickly growing into a national treasure. And he is only 31 years old. Favorite song is "Church" or maybe "The Healing."  

2.  Buddy Guy -- Born To Play Guitar (Silvertone) Buddy Guy released my number 1 cd of 2013 with "Rhythm & Blues" and this set is superior to that one. The man is a six-time Grammy winner. He has made God knows how many albums, and he has a career of over 50 years, and he seems to still be getting better. God bless you, Buddy. Thanks for all the great music. He probably doesn't need my review to sell his music--but he deserves to be listed here.
1.  Shemekia Copeland -- Outskirts Of Love (Alligator) Speaking only a few words about Shemekia Copeland's music will take a great deal of restraint on my part. She has a Grammy nomination for Best Blues Album for this one. I agree. My favorite cd of the year since the day I first heard it.