In this our 13th year of Blues Bytes, we use the
January Pick Hit to feature the reviewers' Top Ten Lists for the past year.
It's been another great year for Blues Bytes, as we
continue to attract visitors from around the world.
We couldn't do Blues Bytes without our team
of dedicated reviewers, who year after year submit the wonderful
reviews found on the pages of this site for one primary reason
--- they love the blues! If you read a review that you like,
send us an email and we'll forward your compliments on to that
Thanks to all of you for
- Bill Mitchell
(Editor/Publisher of Blues Bytes)
Mitchell (editor of Blues Bytes)
A no-brainer for best CD of the year. There's Troubled Child ...
and then there's everything else. Great soul/blues!
Just For You
Severn Records keeps boosting its reputation as one of the best labels
in the business today by giving us my two favorite discs of the year.
The Delgado Brothers
Learn To Fly (Bell Asher)
These brothers from East L.A. just don't record frequently enough ...
which makes Learn To Fly a gem to treasure.
At Least I'm Not With You
One of the surprise hits of the year --- I can't wait to see these cats
at our upcoming Blues Blast festival in AZ!
Big Pete Pearson
Finger In Your Eye (Southwest Musical Arts Foundation / Vizztone)
Arizona's king of the blues keeps getting better with age.
From the Root (Northern Blues)
Harmon's duet with Sueann Carwell on "The Price of Lovin' You" is the icing on the cake with this very
This native Australian is one of the top female blues artists on the scene
Billy Price & Fred Chapellier
Night Work (Dixiefrog)
Pittsburgh soul/blues crooner teams up with French guitarist for a nice
mix of classics and originals.
Love Me Tonight (Blind Pig)
One of the hottest young blues guys on the scene today.
Rod Piazza and the Mighty Flyers Blues Quartet
Soul Monster (Delta Groove)
This one from Southern California's perennial favorites is worth the
money just for the great story about the late Sam Myers that prefaces
"Blues in '92," renamed here as "Tell Me About It Sam."
(reviewer from Spain)
Ray Farrell - Camino De Sanlucar
Homemade Jamz Blues Band - I Got Blues For You
Jimmy Duck Holmes - Ain’t It Lonesome
Tommy McCoy & Lucky Petersen - Lay My Demons Down
Damon Fowler - Sugar Shack
Texas Slim - Driving Blues
Toler Townsend Band - Toler Townsend Band
Kellie Rucker - Blues Is Blues
Tommy Castro - Hard Believer
Dave Riley & Bob Corritore - Lucky To Be Living
(reviewer from Canada)
Due to circumstances beyond my
control, I was not able to review many CDs in 2009. However, I was still
regularly listening to the blues and catching as many live shows as
possible. Here is my top ten of 2009 in no particular order:
Joe Louis Walker - Between A Rock and The Blues
Charles Wilson - Troubled Child
Darrell Nulisch - Just for You
John Nemeth - Love Me Tonight
Saffire — The Uppity Blues Women - Havin’ The Last Word
Gary Kendall Band - Feels Real Strong
Various Artists - It Ain't Over! Delmark Celebrates 55 Years
of Blues at Buddy Guy's Legends
Tinsley Ellis - Speak No Evil
John Primer - All Original
Harmonica Shah - If All You Have Is A Hammer, Everything Looks
Like A Nail
Clarke (reviewer from Mississippi)
2009 was an incredible year of new releases. After deliberating
about it for a month or so, I’ve decided that it is just about an
impossible task for me to limit myself to a Top Ten list (not that I’ve
ever done it in previous years), so here’s are the top 10 or so discs
that I enjoyed and played the most last year.
Various Artists – Chicago Blues: A Living History (Raisin’ Music)
– No way this release was not going to be on my list. It’s a tribute to
the founding fathers of Chicago blues from some of the second
generation’s most prominent voices (Billy Branch, Lurrie Bell, John
Primer, and Billy Boy Arnold). It’s a keeper for both longtime fans and
Eddie C. Campbell – Tear This World Up (Delmark) – How
can you not like Eddie C. Campbell’s completely unique vision of West
Side Chicago blues? I guarantee if you not a fan before listening, you
will be when you’re finished.
Joe Louis Walker – Between A Rock & The Blues (Stony
Plain) – For some reason, I feel like we take this guy for granted
sometimes. I’ve yet to hear a bad JLW recording, but he has really found
a comfortable groove with Stony Plain and Duke Robillard behind the
controls. To me, this ranks with his best recordings.
Jimmy “Duck” Holmes – Ain’t It Lonesome (Broke & Hungry) – The
last of the Bentonia Blues men continues the tradition while branching
out into the Mississippi Delta sound as well on his best release so far.
Dave Riley & Bob Corritore – Lucky To Be Living (Blue
Witch) – The second collaboration is even better than the first. These
guys complement each other perfectly and pay tribute to some of Riley’s
mentors this time around (Frank Frost, Sam Carr, and John Weston).
Larry Garner – Here Today Gone Tomorrow (DixieFrog) –
Yes, I know this one came out in 2008, but it took until 2009 for it to
make its way to my stereo, so it counts. Garner battled health issues
for part of the decade, but he’s bounced back with one of his best
recordings yet. If, for some reason, you haven’t experienced Larry
Garner, you need to make it tops on your list of New Year’s resolutions.
Tim Lothar – In It For The Ride (TLP), Kelly
Carmichael – Queen Fareena (Dogstreet), Little Joe
McLerran – Believe I’ll Make A Change (Roots Blues Reborn) –
These were three of my favorite acoustic recordings this year. Lothar’s
release is a crushing set of Mississippi Delta blues via Denmark.
McLerran’s set is Piedmont Blues, with Delta blues, jazz, and swing
mixed in. Carmichael’s disc covers the entire gamut of Pre-War music.
It’s fantastic to have younger musicians embracing this classic music
and making it available and accessible for new listeners.
Arthur Adams – Stomp The Floor (Delta Groove) – Nobody
does the Blues/R&B thing like Arthur Adams. This is a wonderful set of
old-school tunes that owe as much to jazz and R&B as they do to the
blues, and Adams has never sounded better on guitar or vocals.
Various Artists – M for Mississippi, Volume 2 (Broke & Hungry,
Mudpuppy, and Cat Head) – The second volume features songs that are
every bit as good as the selections on Volume 1. Simply put, if you come
to the Mississippi Delta, this is what you will hear. So what are you
Charles Wilson – Troubled Child (Severn) – This is one
of the best soul/blues recordings I’ve heard in years, just like they
used to do them.
Bob Corritore – Broadcasting the Blues (Southwest Musical
Arts Foundation), Guy King – Livin’ It (IBF), Louisiana
Red – Back To The Black Bayou (Ruf), Pat Thomas –
His Father’s Son (Broke & Hungry), Omar Kent Dykes – Big
Town Playboy (Ruf), Nick Moss & the Flip Tops – Live At
Chan’s – Combo Platter No. 2 (Blue Bella), Davis Coen –
Magnolia Land (Soundview), Various Artists – Things About Comin’
My Way – A Tribute to the Mississippi Sheiks (Black Hen Music),
Joanne Shaw Taylor – White Sugar (Ruf), Ronnie Earl & the
Broadcasters – Living In The Light (Stony Plain)
1. Duke Robillard: Stomp the Blues Tonight; Stony
Plain. One of the most consistent players out there,
Rolbillard’s guitar pays tribute to heroes without becoming
retro and always induces foot tappin’. And his vocal approach,
solo or in tandem with guest Sunny Crownover, is tempered by his
own long history. This tribute to jump tunes, evenly originals
and classics from the likes of Roy Milton, Wynonie Harris and
Helen Humes, with a killer instrumental take on “Frankie &
Johnny,” is a rug cutting blast!
2. Johnny Bassett: The Gentleman Is Back; Sly
Dog/Mack Avenue. Bassett first hit the radar 60 years ago,
playing Detroit’s Hastings Street and working for Fortune
Records. After too many years in obscurity, his resurrection
began in earnest in the early '90s with a series of recordings,
each of which outdid its predecessor. This is not just good,
it’s extraordinary. Smooth and swinging guitar, cognac voice, a
sly sense of humor, and a great band.
3. Greg Nagy: Walk That Fine Thin Line; Big O. The
guitarist with Root Doctor steps out with a stunner of a debut
solo disc. Straight blues with gospel, funk and soul overtones,
Nagy is equally impressive as vocalist and guitarist on superb
originals (such as the title piece) and a few well chosen covers
(such as “For the Love Of a Woman”).
4. Shaun Murphy: Livin’ the Blues; Vision Wall.
One of the most powerful vocalists to come down the road in a
long while, Murphy steps out of her role as lead vocalist with
Little Feat and erstwhile backing singer for Bob Seger and Eric
Clapton, to shape the best debut recording of the year. Her
opening “Ocean of Tears” and the rafter-shaking take on Dylan’s
“It Takes A Lot to Laugh, It Takes A Train to Cry” are worth the
price of admission alone.
5. Bryan Lee: My Lady Don’t Love My Lady; Justin
Time. Lee’s last few albums have been killer and this is no
exception. Solid soulful vocals, understated guitar, and a
first-rate guest list fill the speakers with interpretations of
Doc Pomus, Willie Mabon, Earl King, Junior Wells, Big Bill
Broonyzy, and Kenny Wayne Shepard along with a couple of
impressive originals – all infused with that infectious New
6. Kurt Crandall: Get Wrong With Me; Yester Year
Records. Harmonicist/vocalist Crandall’s second recording is
loaded with chops that point to a brilliant player steeped in,
but not bogged down by his roots. He’s a master of West
Coast-swing meets Chicago. The Lucky Millinder, Snooky Pryor,
Sonny Boy Williamson and Willie Dixon covers are first rate, but
the originals are generally the standouts. Something of a
William Clarke devote, he’s got a sly sense of humor, a great
band (check guitarist Karl Angerer on “Late Night Rendezvous”),
and the surprise hit of the year.
7. The Insomniacs: At Least I’m Not With You;
Delta Groove. The pride of Portland, Oregon, the Insomniacs have
released two discs for Delta Groove, both of which are
first-rate. Vocalist/guitarist Vyasa Dodson wrote the majority
of the tunes, and the band does a hot version of Little
Richard’s “Directly From My Heart To You” that swings. The
quartet is joined by Al Blake, Mitch Kashmar, Joel Patterson and
Jeff Turmes, but the core players are the stars of the show and
extremely impressive. These guys will be around for a good
8. Ronnie Earl & The Broadcasters: Living In the Light;
Stony Plain. Ronnie Earl is the premier blues guitarist of the
past decade or so. The majority of this stunning disc is
instrumental, which is where he shines. The vocals, from Kim
Wilson and Dave Keller, offer a mixed bag, making it slightly
less than a perfect recording. As a guitarist, Earl is
untouchable, whether assaying the spiritual explorations of
“Ain’t Nobody’s Business,” “Pastorale,” and the transcendent
“Recovery Blues,” or on the straight ahead blues of “S.O.S.,”
“River Charles Blues” and “Blues For Fathead” -- jaw-droppers,
9. Candye Kane: Superhero; Delta Groove. Bawdy
blues belter Kane has transcended a tough background and is a
recent survivor of cancer. More importantly, she’s also a
spectacular singer. Having witnessed her growth over the past 20
years, it’s obvious that every knock-down makes her stronger.
She’s lost a lot of the big-girl girth that was a large part of
her professional persona. She’s gained tougher chops in the
process. Her songwriting is more confident, her voice imbued
with passion, and the band may be her best yet.
10. Tie (or, just an excuse to make 13 look like 10)
Maria Muldaur: Garden of Joy; Stony Plain.
Subtitled Good Time Music for Hard Times, this return to
Muldaur’s jug band roots, on which she is joined by John
Sebastian, David Grisman and others, is a delight. Dan Hicks (of
Hot Licks fame) guests, he being an old-timey kinda guy
hisownself. Music based in the last great depression revisited
just in time for the new one. A garden of Joy, indeed.
Things About Comin’ My Way-A Tribute to the Mississippi
Sheiks; Black Hen. The Mississippi Sheiks were basically a
three brother act who, if for no other reason, will be
remembered as the folks who gave us “Sittin’ On Top of the
World.” That song is performed here by the Carolina Chocolate
Drops. Also along for the ride are the North Mississippi All
Stars, John Hammond, Bruce Cockburn, Madeleine Peyroux, Geoff
Muldaur, Bob Brozman and others. Ndidi Onukwulu sings a sultry
version of the title piece.
Mary Flower: Bridges; Yellow Dog. For my money,
the standout acoustic album of the year. Flower is a
finger-style guitarist with a warm voice and impeccable timing.
This is a dazzling collection of pre-war blues and a few
stunning instrumentals from her own pen. Thoroughly enchanting.
Duffy Bishop, Tony Furtado, Tim O’Brien and others sit in, but
this is all about Mary Flower, her guitar and her voice.
John Primer: All Original; Blues House
Productions. Primer has been a member of Magic Slim’s and Muddy
Water’s bands. He’s on the new Chicago Blues: A Living History
collection on Shout. He’s a major cat, for sure. These even
dozen original tunes benefit from Primer’s deep history, strong
guitar and solid vocals. It’s the most blues a fan could ask for
in one tidy package.
Deibler (President of the Phoenix Blues Society and
regular Blues Bytes reviewer)
Tommy Castro – Hard Believer. Hands down the best
record I’ve listened to all year. Kudos to Tommy and the band for
proving me right in Tunica.
2. Things About Comin’ My Way – A Tribute to the Music of the
Mississippi Sheiks. A record that caught me by surprise and I
kept coming back to it. BMA nominated for Acoustic Album of the Year
and rightfully so.
3. Big James & the Chicago Playboys – Right Here, Right
Now. Under appreciated in this year’s BMA considerations. My
choice for Contemporary album of the year.
4. Ronnie Earl and the Broadcasters – Living In The Light.
It’s Ronnie Earl, what can I say? He’s simply the best guitarist on
the planet and it’s a shame he doesn’t tour anymore.
5. Jim Suhler and Monkeybeat – Tijuana Bible. Texas
blues down and dirty the way we like it best. Outstanding job by Jim
6. Guy Davis – Sweetheart Like You. Wonderful acoustic
record from Guy. It’s all here, great vocals, picking and very
clever lyrics. What’s not to love?
7. Darrell Nulisch – Just For You. Sweet…sweet record
from this Texas Bluesman. Darrell received BMA nominations for Soul
Blues Artist of the Year and Soul Blues record of the year. He got
my vote in both categories.
8. Candye Kane – Superhero. Candye has put out some
amazing records over the last four years and this is the one that
caught everyone’s ear. Candye definitely earned her 3 BMA
nominations this year.
9. Saffire — The Uppity Blues Women – Havin the Last Word.
The final project from these three very hard-headed, deliciously
nasty Blueswomen. Great record and I for one am very sad to see them
break up to pursue other projects.
10. Alex Dixon Band – Rising From the Bushes. One of
the freshest records I’ve listened to all year from the grandson of
Willie Dixon. A band that is definitely on the rise.
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Revised: December 31, 2009 - Version 1.00
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