Archive for December 14th, 2012



gary clark jr 1


The best blues work of  2012 and for matter the last 10 years has usually been about artists who bridge the gap between R & B, Soul, Americana Roots,12 Bar Blues and of course the mighty blues rock.

In fact a number of albums released this year in a blues category will make top lists in possibly a rock genre.

Before I make the list of 2012 note I pick from only albums I own or what labels have sent.

In the past years off the top of my head if I think about Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Joe Bonamassa, Peter Karp and Sue Foley, Ronnie Earl and The Broadcasters, Tommy Castro, Jack De Keyzer, Tedeschi-Trucks Band etc. These artists made great albums INSPIRED by the blues form of  Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters, B.B. King and others

Nothing wrong with that. 

In no particular order, this is what sticks in my vehicle, on my radio show, on my Ipod, and home stereo.

Gary Clark Jr-Blak and Blu-One of the most gutsy and honest players playing music inspired by the blues form has to be Clark Off the top, his extended guitar solos break all the rules. On this album they will leave you reeling. Songs like Ain’t Messing Around with it’s killer horns blow you out of the room. Check out the soul on the title track, the very heavy When My Train Pull In or the enormous blues rock of Numb.  Wow! 

Peter Karp and Sue Foley-Beyond The Crossroads-It’s hard to describe the organic vibe that comes out of this recording. It’s unstrained, natural and above all it’s entertaining.  Original yet familar. Exactly my point about this review. Music inspired by the blues that is creative and sticks with you.  A must have album.

Robert Cray-Nothin’ But Love. The most relaxed, inspired set of songs that any Grammy winning blues musician recorded this year. Songs of love lost, killer playing and  fantastic arrangements in a non traditional blues form. I can’t stop playing this album.

Joe Bonamassa-Driving Towards Daylight-Bonamsssa is the player I most admire in having the passion of Stevie Ray Vaughan. Granted he does not play the blues as straight as Vaughan and Double Trouble, but to give you a clue my wife lives Joe’s work and she is not a huge blues fan. Dislocated Boy, his cover of Howlin’ Wolf’s Who’ Been Talkin’ and the title track are monsters.

Jack De Keyzer-Electric Love-There may not be a better slow blues song than De Keyzer’s My Love Has Gone in 2012. Great vocal, minor key traditional blues form, and stunning guitar solo. De Keyzer turns up the volume at every turn. Tracks like the title track, Rock Me Like This, Mojo Woman, and To Be With You will burn holes in your speakers.

Paul Reddick-Wishbone-Great songwriter who’s songs lyrically bring on a cinematic scope. Check out The Other Man, the terrific Devil’s Load and I Ain’t Sentimental.  Excellent. 

Eric Bibb-Deeper In the Well. In quiet moments when you listen to this recording it astounds you that someone can make music as real as this. No BS here folks. Honest Americana roots. Again, cinematic in scope

Bonnie Raitt-Slipstream. Like Gary Clark Jr, Raitt is not doing a tradtional form of the blues. If anything this is an R & B album that suits a soul/rock category. Absolute killer work from Raitt and her hot band. This album sounds like you were in the studio with the band when they were recording. Clean and uncluttered.  Another cd I can’t stop playing.

Walter Trout-Blues For the Modern Daze-This album is damn good. We should have seen it coming. At the top of his game Trout is the equal of Bonamassa and plays with the fire of Gary Moore. Title track, Money Rules The World and Turn Off Your TV tell it like it is. Wow!

Magic Slim and The Teardrops-Bad Boy-Classic blues and the album I play most on the way to a gig. Simple, effective and brings me back to the way Muddy Waters played in his heydey. Love it.

Other blues based highlights for me in 2012

Deanna Bogart-Pianoland-Consumate musician. In fact Bogart is scary good. Jazzy, bluesey and always on the money.

Craig Chaquico-Fire Red Moon-The instrumentals like Blue on Blue are the key to this album. The more you listen to this cd the better it gets. That’s a good thing.

Muddy Waters and The Rolling Stones-Live at the Checkerboard Lounge-This is more to fun to watch on the DVD but even on the cd it reminds you that there was only one Muddy Waters. As a point,  let’s face it The Stones are pretty damn good blues players eh?

Henrik Freischalder Band-House In the Woods-German guitarist and his band are dynamite. Henrik sounds vocally like Ronnie Wood. As greasy as ZZ Top, some traditional. some soul, lots of great electric blues. Top tracks are Nowhere To Go, title track and the funky Hear You Talking.

I’m probably forgetting some artists but this is an essential list.

JOHN EMMS is a veteran music journalist, songwriter, musician and radio host. You can hear John’s blues rocking band The Shaftmen on Itunes, Amazon and here

December 2012