It’s been a great year so far for blues albums. Whether it’s acoustic blues, blues rock, traditional, modern, gospel or funk, there’s been something for everyone. We’ve chosen our top 15 albums – arranged in alphabetical order, rather than ranking them. Enjoy!
Selwyn Birchwood, Living in a Burning House
Fresh modern blues, featuring Birchwood’s bluesy voice, and top-notch guitar and lap steel playing. Thirteen original energetic songs with a blues rock sound, with a jazzy feel at times. Birchwood is quite a talent and this is his best album yet.
Joanna Connor, 4801 South Indiana Avenue
An absolutely top-notch set of blues rock that clearly has a Chicago blues heritage, yet sounds completely fresh and modern. Connor’s killer slide guitar and vocals are augmented by some characteristically fine guitar work by Joe Bonamassa and a tight-knit top-class band. Superbly produced, and packed with raw, high-energy musicianship. Check out our interview with Joanna here.
Paul Cowley, Long Time Comin’
Paul Cowley is an outstanding musician, a fine guitarist, with a deep appreciation for the acoustic blues tradition. Long Time Coming, has 12 acoustic blues songs, 5 traditional songs from the likes of Charlie Patton, Blind Boy Fuller and Blin Willie McTell and 7 originals. It’s outstanding, and hugely enjoyable. Here’s our great interview with Paul.
Steve Cropper, Fire It Up
Legendary guitarist, songwriter and record producer delivers his first proper solo album since 1969. Thirteen well-constructed songs, with a terrific band, excellent guitar work by Cropper and an outstanding vocal performance from Roger Reale. Check out our full review here.
Guy Davis, Be Ready When I Call You
Great songs, featuring Guy’s distinctive, growly vocals and rhythmic guitar work, good humour and engaging stories. More than just blues musically and most of the songs have a shard-hitting strong social commentary going on. An outstanding release from Davis and M.C. Records. Guy spoke to us about this important album.
Robert Finlay, Sharecropper’s Son
Finlay’s rasping, soulful voice is distinctive and memorable, and shines on this terrific album of blues, gospel, soul, and R&B. Produced by Dan Auerbach, the album evokes Finlay’s life of struggle and determination. Finlay is one of those musicians helped by the Music Maker Relief Foundation and his first album only appeared in 2016. Auerbach says simply, “Finlay is the greatest living soul singer.” To judge by this album, he’s not wrong.
Chris Gill, Between Midnight and Loiuse
A stripped-down recording, just two microphones, a small amp, no overdubs and a lot of love for the blues. Relax on the back porch as Gill takes his acoustic, resonator and cigar box and performs nine originals and Virgil Brawley songs. It’s finger picking good, good old-fashioned acoustic blues played with considerable depth and passion.
John Hiatt with the Jerry Douglas Band, Leftover Feelings
A rewarding set of songs from Hiatt and Dobro master Jerry Douglas. Hiatt taps a rich vein of song-writing skill and experience in a mixture of ballads and blues songs with compelling stories. The combination of Hiatt’s always interesting voice, Douglas’s jaw-droppingly good guitar work and eleven good tunes makes for a hugely enjoyable experience.
Kelly’s Lot, Where and When
Kelly Zirbes’s band, which hails from the Los Angeles area has been plying its trade for the last 25 years, mostly as a blues rock outfit. Where and When sees them stripping things back, performing 11 acoustic blues songs with resonator-slide guitar and Zirbes’s gritty voice to the fore. It’s fabulous stuff, six originals written by Kelly and rhythm guitarist Perry Robertson that evoke the blues of a bygone age and five reworked traditional blues songs, including a terrific version of Robert Johnson’s Stones in My Passageway.
Elizabeth King, Living in the Last Days
Wonderful set of bluesy gospel songs from gospel singer King 50 years after she stopped performing and recording professionally. It’s a funky, blues, soul-filled pot of rich gospel fare, an album full of great songs, music that touches you, and Ms. King’s powerful vocal performance. It’s a gift for us all. Check out our great interview with the wonderful Ms King.
New Moon Jell Roll Freedom Rockers, Vol 2
Classic old-school recording from a kind of blues super-group, the musicians sitting together in a circle in the studio and playing amongst the microphones. It’s a joyous exploration of the blues, with great heart and soul A fine tribute to Jim Dickinson and a huge treat of an album for all of us. Our full review is here.
Gary Moore, How Blue Can You Get
If you buy one blues album this year, this is it. A set of eight songs, some previously unheard and unreleased, from the Moore family archives, will move you, excite you, get you on your feet, and make you regret all the more that Gary Moore is no longer with us. Released on the tenth anniversary of Moore’s passing How Blue Can You Get proves, if there was ever any doubt, that Gary Moore was a master of the blues. Our full review is here.
Reverend Shawn Amos, The Cause of It All
“I want to bring the ancestors into the room,” said Amos of this set of blues classics by the likes of Willie Dixon, Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, Howlin’ Wolf, and Little Walter. The songs are stripped to the bone, with Amos on harmonica and vocals, and his longtime collaborator Chris “Doctor” Roberts on guitar. Check out Amos’s hair-on the-back-of-your-neck-raising vocal performance on the wholly acoustic Hoochie Coochie Man.
Alabama Slim, The Parlor
Approaching his 82nd birthday, close to seven feet tall, and typically dressed in an impeccable tailored suit, Alabama Slim has given us a perfect, classic blues album which recalls the boogie of John Lee Hooker. It’s delicious, pared-back, but tasty fare from a man whose soulful and oh-so-cool vocals are served up in a wrap of sweet guitar groove from Little Freddie King, Slim’s cousin. Check out our full review here.
Christina Vane, Nowhere Sounds Lovely
Sit up and take notice of Cristina Vane, whose Nowhere Sounds Lovely is a terrific amalgam of blues, bluegrass and country – a thoroughgoing bluesy Americana, you might say. Whatever way you want to describe it, she’s a wonderful talent – a skilful guitar picker and slide player, a fine songwriter and a beautiful singer. We reviewed this excellent album here.