In the New Year, we’ll publish our annual Best Blues Albums of the Year. But in the meantime, here’s a reminder of Down at the Crossroads’ picks for the best albums of 2012, 2013 and 2014. Feel free to disagree!
Best Blues Albums 2012
2012 was an outstanding year for the blues. Whatever way you like it, electric or acoustic, there were a spate of superb offerings. Here is our choice of the top 20 blues albums of 2012. See if you agree…
Brother Sinner and the Whale: Kelly Joe Phelps
Passionate, gospel blues, with superb finger-picking and slide guitar. In probably his best work yet, we get wonderfully constructed songs, full of melody and grace, with outstanding singing. For courage, musicianship, performance and lyrical brilliance, it’s top of the pile for Down at the Crossroads.
Walter Trout’s take on the ills of the modern world – bankers, politicians, useless gadgetry are all in his sights – 15 fantastic songs, sung with passion and laced with Walter’s stunning Fender Strat guitar licks. Stand-out track – Brother’s Keeper.
Peace Meal: Carolyn Wonderland
Outstanding album from Texas blues woman Carolyn Wonderland. Great take on blues classics like Dust My Broom along with a terrific set of self-penned songs, including the wonderful God Only Knows.
Driving for Daylight: Joe Bonamassa
Joe Bonamassa goes from strength to strength. His singing and playing just get better and better on songs that include Robert Johnson’s Stones in My Passageway and Howling Wolf’s Who’s been Talking?
Nothing but Love: Robert Cray Band
Return to his best form with a wonderfully, crafted and funky approach to the blues. Cray also takes a tilt at the dishonesty of the age with that ever so sweet voice.
Shelter : Brian Houston
The artist that most people reading this will be most unfamiliar with. Houston is an Irish artist who has recently changed musical direction with this outstanding blues album, full of raw passion, great songs and clever lyrics. Oh, and a dose of the McClary Sisters as well for good measure.
I Belong to the Band: Rory Block
Rory Block’s tribute to Rev Gary Davis. 11 of his best religious blues & ragtime songs, including I Belong to the Band and I Am the Light of the World, arranged and sung by Block in the Rev’s own style. Wonderful, inspirational stuff.
With the Texan’s bluesmen’s first album in nine years, we get no surprises – it’s all characteristically ZZ Top, in-your-face, knock-out grooves. On-form, blistering, just great.
Ian Siegal, who gets better and better by the album, is joined by Cody & Luther Dickinson, Garry Burnside, Lightni’ Malcolm and Alvin Youngblood Hart. With that line-up this could hardly fail to be an outstanding album – top class blues with Siegal’s signature growling vocals stealing the show.
Featuring a cover of Dylan’s I’ll be your Baby Tonight and Buddy Guy on I ain’t Gonna Be Your Tattoo, Shemekia fearlessly covers domestic violence, injustice and religious hypocrisy in a very fine set of blues songs. Standout feature of the album – Shemekia’s powerful, arresting, but superbly harnessed voice.
Delta Time: Hans Theessink & Terry Evans
Hugely enjoyable acoustic blues from two of the finest blues singers around. Great chemistry from the combination of these two contrasting voices with a wonderful gospel sound and lovely harmonies throughout. Guest appearance from Ry Cooder.
The future of blues rock? Top class combination which includes Mike Zito, Devon Allman and Yonrico Scott delivers an outstanding set of bluesy, inspirational, soulful and funky songs. Top drawer stuff from a group of top class musicians.
Fantastic live music from the Tedeschi-Trucks Band, featuring Derek Trucks’ sizzling electric slide and Susan Tedeschi’s sultry, emotive vocals.
Bonnie’s first album in seven years doesn’t disappoint. Classic Raitt seductive singing and understated but effective slide guitar. Wonderful stuff, including two recent Dylan covers.
Energetic, exciting blues from Joe Louis Walker. There’s some terrific guitar work here and the struggle between the devil and the Lord is graphically depicted in both Hellfire and I’m a Soldier for Jesus.
Live set of the unique music of the Allstars, featuring Luther Dickinson’s uneven, but engaging vocals. Rough edged, country-tinged, down and dirty blues that makes you feel you’re right in the Delta.
Outstanding album of “trance-blues” from Taylor, “a modern blues record that even non-blues fans can love and that blues fans can outright cherish”, as another reviewer put it.
After turning his life around a few years ago, Chicago bluesman Lurrie Bell has come up with a wonderful gospel blues album that gives full rein to his rasping vocals and cool, bluesy guitar work. Includes Tom Wait’s Down in the Hole
The superb Eric Bibb, one of the foremost exponents of acoustic blues, gives us an album that adds Creole and country influences from Louisiana. Eric is joined by a terrific set of banjo, mandolin, fiddle and accordion players to give us a classy and charming set of songs that includes gospel, blues and folk.
Album of Bill Broonzy songs by aging bluesman Arnold, who remembers seeing Big Bill play. Excellent celebration of Broonzy with tasteful harmonica playing throughout