This year has seen a wealth of killer blues music hit the streets. Albums with soulful grooves, nasty guitar licks and rumbling beats unleashed for music lovers listening pleasure. From the soothing sounds of Chicago soul to the swampy din of the delta to the rattlesnake flash of Texas and the sultry harmonies of the South there has been plenty of good blues tunes for which ever taste floats your boat. With so much to choose from, I felt I would list a few to help you decide which to treat your ears with.
Doug McLeod – There’s A Time
With a soothing guitar and soulful voice, McLeod effortlessly rolls through a collection of original tunes that is pleasant to the ear. Making his acoustic guitar do things many could only dream of there is no electric hum or fuzzy distortion from Mr. McLeod. The album was recorded live so what you hear is what he was playing in studio. From the opening track, “Rosa Lee” to the final guitar lick of “Ghost” there is something familiar about this record. I swear I had heard many of these tunes before but they are all McLeod originals. He plays and sings with a style that is very familiar to classic bluesmen throughout history. Highlighting the record is the afore mentioned “Rosa Lee”, the jaunty “My In-laws Are Outlaws” and the chugging “East Carolina Woman”. McLeod’s music ranges from robust and nasty to sparse and elegant as he takes the listener on a musical roller coaster before depositing them at the end leaving them wanting more.
Frank Bang & the Secret Stash – Double Dare
The best way to describe this music is nasty. Frank Bang & the Secret Stash have dished out a batch of guitar driven music that is loud, rowdy and flat out nasty. Built on a blues foundation, this Southern raunch (by way of Chicago) lies somewhere between Gov’t Mule and Molly Hatchet. Bang’s guitar slinging attacks the listener’s ear with the quickness of a rattle snake and his growling vocals supply added power to the music. While rock tunes that need to be played loud, (“Double Dare” and “Lose Control”) steal the show, it is the ability to switch things up that makes Double Dare so rewarding. Things get a bit countrified on “My Own Country Way” and the bluesy “Wonder Woman” is just plain filthy. From start to finish this record is a sweet listen. It captures the live spirit Bangs and crew are known for and may be the closest thing to actually seeing them live. Crank it loud, grab cold beer (if you are of legal age) and enjoy.
Paul Gabriel – What’s The Chance
To say Paul Gabriel’s guitar playing is smooth would be an understatement. Playing with and learning from some of the best blues & jazz musicians out there has really rubbed off on Gabriel, and their influences can be subtly found throughout his style of playing. On his latest record What’s The Chance, Gabriel Has assembled a group of tunes that are built on his boogie woogie style that harkens back to juke joints of old. Gabriel is able to play just about anything and the variety of the songs proves that. “All That Time Gone” is full of swing era grooves, “328 Chauncey Street is a jazzy little number, “Room Full Of Blues is a sultry blues number and “Ride, Ride, Ride” has a nasty Texas blues sound right out of the Stevie Ray Vaughan songbook. While Gabriel may not be a household name, his guitar playing and songwriting is mighty fine and you would be crazy not to give this album a listen.
Lisa Biales – Singing In My Soul
With one of the most unique voices in music, Lisa Biales can truly belt out the tunes. On her latest record she teams up with pianist Ricky Nye and the Paris Blues Band to dish out a collection of tunes that are full of all the jazz, blues, boogie woogie and ragtime music you care to listen to. Consisting mostly of covers, Singing In My Soul is a demonstration of Biales’ vocal talents. From the jangly up beat “A Little Bird Told Me” to the bluesy “Strange Things Happen” to the sultry “Waiting For The Train To Come In” she attacks each song belting out her vocals to match the music. While the backing band sounds great, it is Biales’ voice that carries this record. While this is not usually my type of album, I am glad I listened to it.
Ronnie Earl & the Broadcasters – Just For Today
This thirteen track mostly instrumental album from Ronnie Earl & the Broadcasters is a wonderful exhibition of guitar playing prowess. Earl can manipulate his guitar and dish out licks that range from ballsy blues to smooth jazz. The listener is introduced to the record with the opening track “The Big Train” drawing them into a musical realm where smooth guitar licks battle soulful keyboards as the two meld into one nasty sound. Things get a little wild on “Robert Nighthawk Stomp” and “Vernice’s Boogie” and Earl shows he can slow it down on the sultry “Heart Of Glass” and “Blues For Celie”. Two tunes take the forefront on this record. “Blues For Hubert Sumlin” is an epic demonstration on guitar playing that would have made Mr. Sumlin proud and “Equinox” is a jazz infused jam fest that takes the listener in all different directions. Check out this record the grooves are infectious and the guitar playing is stellar.
Dudley Taft – Deep Deep Blue
When you hit play on Dudley Taft’s Deep Deep Blue his vicious guitar playing strikes like a rattlesnake when the opening track “Meet Me In The Morning” kicks in. From there the bad ass licks just keep on coming. Harnessing the ghosts of Albert King and Stevie Ray Vaughan, Taft delivers a brand of blues rock straight from the bowels of Texas, even though he is not from the Lone Star State, however, he is not a one trick pony. With tunes such as “Feeling Good Now” and “The Waiting” anchored by the Texas blues vibe it is tracks like “Sally Can’t Dance” with funky keyboards, the heavy rocker “God Forbid” and the swampy “Wishing Well” that show off Taft’s versatility. One of the better tracks is “Deep Deep Blue”, where Taft and crew get a little spacey. The tune is mellow flowing like a Pink Floyd track and anchored by Taft’s smooth guitar playing. If you dig blues, southern rock or even country then check this album out.
Dana Fuchs – Bliss Avenue
It would be easy to compare Dana Fuchs’ music to one of many powerful female blues or rock singers throughout history, and it would also be an injustice. When you listen to her album Bliss Avenue you need to listen to it for her voice, not because she sounds like someone else. The music takes the listener on a journey through dirty rock, ballsy blues and raunchy soul music that sounds just as much from the 60’s and 70’s as it does from today. Stepping out from behind her penchant for cover tunes this album is her words as she unleashes songs about life, love and bad decisions. With many of today’s female singers sounding alike it is nice to hear something different.
Rory Block – Avalon
Making a name for herself recently with her own personal tributes to blues legends, Rory Block once again goes to that well with Avalon, her ode to Mississippi John Hurt. While the other tributes seemed to be missing something the latest addition is spot on. Her vocals compliment the sparse guitar playing perfectly and while it may not have the grittiness of Hurt’s music her tunes capture the essence of his music. Most tributes tend to fall flat but that is not the case here.
Hank Mowrey – Account To Me
This album is more than another batch of songs it is a true labor of love from Hank Mowery. It is his own personal homage to bluesman Gary Primich. Working with Primich’s family and former band mate Mowery has recorded several of Primich’s songs, written a couple himself and covered a couple of classic blues tunes because he felt Gary would have liked them. His versions of “Put The Hammer Down” and “My Home” do the music justice and his original track “Spend A Little Time” is the perfect table setter for the record. Highlighting the album are “Tricky Game” and “Account To Me”, two unrecorded Primich originals that only existed in lyric form. Mowery and band took the task to add the music and the finished product is pretty damn good. This is a solid album full of good music minus the filler.
Bryan Lee – Play One For Me
On his latest offering, Mr. Lee dishes out his own take on delta blues led by his smooth guitar playing and soulful singing. An equal mix of original material and covers this record is one of the nicer blues listens you can treat your ears to this year. He puts his own stank on songs from Howlin’ Wolf [“Evil Is Going On”], Bobby Womack [“When Love Begins (Friendship Begins)”] & Freddie King [“It’s Too Bad (Things Are Going So Tough)”]and Lee originals such as “Why” and “Poison” mesh seamlessly with the classics. From the first guitar lick until the final note this is a must listen.
MonkeyJunk – All Frequencies
Dirty swamp boogie is MonkeyJunk’s business and after listening to All Frequencies, business is very good. Full of original tunes that infuse blues, rock, soul, and funk they have created a mighty fun record to listen to. Highlighted by the swampy “You Made A Mess” and the slow and nasty “Once Had Wings” the trio from North of the border know what they are doing. Building off of two very good albums, their latest output takes the music to a new level and may be their best.
Nuno Mindelis – Angels & Clowns
Brazilian blues guitarist Nuno Mindelis has enlisted the aid of the Duke Robillard Band on his latest record Angels & Clowns. Mindelis keeps things simple offering up straight forward blues infused classic rock music that needs to be cranked up loud and enjoyed. The music leaps from the speakers invading the listener’s ears with soulful rhythms and bluesy guitar riffs. While listening to Angels & Clowns it is obvious he wears his influences on his sleeve playing music that sounds familiar yet staying fresh and new. You could compare it to the comfort of a home cooked meal, it makes you feel good. Give it a listen you will not be disappointed.