We’ve had some terrific blues albums during 2019. It’s always hard to compare blues-rock with acoustic blues or with Americana blues; or more traditional sounding blues with modern blues that stretch the boundaries of the genre. But, nevertheless, here’s a list of the 30 albums that we’ve enjoyed listening to and that we consider a cut above the rest. (Click on the links as you go through to find full reviews or interviews.)
Here’s our Top 10
Keb’ Mo’: Oklahoma
Rich, typically Keb’ Mo’ style rootsy blues, featuring collaborations with Rosanne Cash, Taj Mahal, Jaci Velasquez, and his wife, Robby Brooks Moore. Producer Colin Linden and Robert Randolph pitch in too, to great effect in a potent and hugely enjoyable set of songs which will surely compete for a Grammy. Here’s our comments on the album.
Martin Harley: Roll with the Punches
Top-notch slide guitarist, Martin Harley’s album is upbeat, it’s positive, the musicianship is superb, the songs and their arrangements are terrific. It’s everything a bluesy Americana album ought to be. It’s a little piece of “sunshine to keep in your pocket everywhere you go.” Check out our full review here.
North Mississippi Allstars: Up and Rollin’
11th album from the Dickinson brothers’ band, which is effectively a soundtrack to photographer Wyatt McSpadden’s shots of local musicians which sought to capture the musical heritage of North Mississippi. With guest appearances from Mavis Staples, Sharde Thomas, Jason Isbell and Duane Betts, this is a hugely enjoyable album, with its roots in the past but a distinctly modern feel.
Beth Hart : War in My Mind
Bluesy, at times hard-rockin’, Hart’s album gives full vent to her powerful and emotive vocals. Honest, revealing and passionate.
Gary Clark Jr.: This Land
Texas bluesman’s 3rd studio album and his best. Seventeen tracks where he cleverly and successfully fuses a number of styles from rock, R&B, hip-hop and soul, with a dash of reggae. Here’s our comment on the album.
Mary Flower : Livin’ With the Blues Again
Eleventh album from fingerstyle blues maestro, Mary Flower is a 12-song set that comprises instrumentals of blues, gospel songs and some Mary Flower originals which showcase her acoustic guitar chops. It’s the blues, but its uplifting as well. Check out our interview with Mary here.
Jontavious Willis: Spectacular Class
Wonderful Grammy-nominated album of acoustic blues, produced by Keb’ Mo’. Described as a “wonderboy” by Taj Mahal, no less, Willis matches his skilful country blues guitar with rich, soulful vocals. Find our interview with Jontavious here.
Rory Gallagher: Blues
New collection of blues recordings from the Irish artist released in what would have been his 50th year of recording. Gallagher was one of the great white blues guitarists of the rock’n’roll era. 36 tracks over 3 CDs – electric and acoustic and live – exude a raw energy, and include special guest sessions with legendary blues artists Muddy Waters and Albert King. A wonderful overview of Gallagher’s career.
Christone Ingram: Kingfish
Quite simple a terrifically enjoyable album, with twelve original songs that feature Ingram’s mellifluous vocals and stunning guitar work. The album is very definitely the blues, with familiar themes of lost and unrequited love but there’s a positivity throughout that is very tangible. Our full review is here.
Peter Frampton Band: All Blues
Ten classic blues tracks deliciously delivered by the vintage rocker and his top-notch band. With guest appearances from Sonny Landreth, Larry Carlton and Steve Morse, this is just terrific stuff.
And here’s the next 10
Kenny Wayne Shepherd: The Traveler
Eight originals and two covers from the ever-consistent Shepherd, accompanied by a group of talented musicians. Shepherd has become not only a not class blues rock guitarist, but a fine song-writer. Mind you, it’s the acoustic Tailwind, with its positive vibe, that stands out for me.
Elles Bailey: Road I Call Home
Superb sophomore album from English singer-songwriter. Blues-infused Americana, with eleven strong songs featuring Bailey’s impressive, soulful vocals.
Robert Randolph: Brighter Days
Pedal steel guitarist and his band are in fine form here with ten excellent songs, some true to their gospel roots, others full out rockers. It’s great fun, full of energy, groove and inspiration.
The Jorgensens: The Lexington Stretch
A completely captivating slice of timeless Americana, that is at once bluesy, jazzy, retro, modern and rocking. Seriously good music, to be enjoyed by anyone who loves blues or Americana. Find our full review here.
Southern Avenue: Keep On
Vintage blues and soul from Memphis-based band. Singers Tierinii and Tikyra Jackson are outstanding in these 12 tracks of fresh, soulful grooves. Outstanding new band, with refreshing new sound.
Walter Trout: Survivor Blues
Walter Trout’s 28th album covers songs that have inspired him along his long musical journey, including numbers by Elmore James, John Mayall, Hound Dog Taylor, Fred McDowell and J.B. Lenoir, putting his own inimitable stamp upon them. Walter Trout is an exquisite guitarist, an accomplished singer and he’s given us another gem.
Jimmy “Duck” Holmes: Cypress Grove
Produced by Black Keys frontman, Dan Auerbach, and features musical support from Auerbach and members of his band. The result is a raw explosion of genuine Mississippi juke-joint blues, with 11 traditional Delta blues songs from Holmes’s extensive repertoire. It’s fabulous stuff, a treat for any blues fan. Check out this great interview with Jimmy here.
Matty T Wall: Transpacific Blues
This new eight-song features Matty T Wall and some of the finest guitarists on the international music scene, including Eric Gales, Walter Trout, Kirk Fletcher, Dave Hole and Kid Ramos. With traditional blues songs and new approaches to the genre with plenty of creative twists, this is some of the best guitar playing in one place you might hear all year. Find our full review here.
Mavis Staples: We Get By
Remarkable vocal performance by the 80 year-old Staples, aided and abetted by producer Ben Harper. In songs of hope and determination, she sings, “things gotta change around here” and we’re “not too far down the wrong road to turn around.”
Tulle Brae: Revelation
Ten original, well-crafted and hugely enjoyable songs, full of energy and emotion. Blues rock, delivered with a huge amount of soul and underpinned by Tullie’s gospel roots. Our full review is here.
3 Top Live Albums
Hans Theessink: 70th Birthday Bash
Last year, for 4 nights in April, Hans celebrated his 70th birthday in the Metropol in Vienna, with musical friends from all over Europe and North America, including The Blind Boys of Alabama. The result is a double album of delightful, top-notch roots music. Find our full review here.
Joe Bonamassa: Live at the Sydney Opera House
Another top drawer live album from blues-rock guitarist Joe Bonamassa and his band at this iconic venue in 2018. Some epic performances here from what was clearly a very special night.
Lee Boys: Live on the East Coast
High-energy, funky, bluesy, sacred steel ensemble delivers a set of songs pulsing with contagious energy and inspiration, fuelled by Chris Johnson’s pedal steel and the band’s tight musicianship. Our full review is here.
And our final set of 7
Tedeschi Trucks: Signs
4th studio album from the impressive Tedeschi Trucks outfit, with its typical meld of classic rock, old soul and blues, into a full-bodied Americana. It’s a calmer than previous outings, however, with Tedeschi’s incredible vocals to the fore, supported, as always by Trucks’ exquisite slide guitar.
Colin Linden, Luther Dickinson & the Tennessee Valentines: Amour
Bluesy dose of Americana covers, including classics like Careless Love and Honest I Do. First time collaboration between Linden and Dickinson, two outstanding musicians, here on top form with 10 songs of bittersweet love.
Joanne Shaw Taylor: Reckless Heart
Blues rock, full of energy from Detroit-based British artist. It’s an upbeat album with some fiery, up-tempo tracks, driven by Taylor’s top-notch guitar work (with no guitar pedals) and her superb, raspy vocals.
Joanna Connor: Rise
Blues, jazz and rock from this incendiary slide guitarist. It’s an accomplished set of 12 original songs which show off Connor’s versatile guitar chops and her impressive song-writing skills.
Mindi Abair and the Boneshakers: No Good Deed
This is a fine album of joyous, upbeat, full-production blues rock, with a dollop of soul and funk here and there. The musicianship from the whole band is outstanding, the choice of songs interesting, the arrangements fabulous and the whole thing makes for a hugely enjoyable summery record. Our full review is here.
Ronnie Earl the Broadcasters: Beyond the Blue Door
15 traditional sounding and soulful blues delivered by Earl’s band with guests Kim Wilson, David Bromberg, and Greg Piccolo. We get a range of covers, including a heart-felt version of Howlin’ Wolf’s How Long, and a number of Earl originals. Look out for the duet between Earl’ Stratocaster and David Bromberg’s acoustic guitar on Dylan’s “It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Train To Cry.”
Samantha Fish: Kill or Be Kind
An album which pulls you in with strong melodies, top notch guitar work and Fish’s versatile vocals which can belt out rockers, go all sultry or give-it-some-soul, in turns sweet, passionate, and gritty. It’s an impressive vocal performance, actually, on a set of songs that encompass soul, blues, pop and melodic love songs. Find our full review here.