It's time, on this New Year's Eve, for looking back and taking stock. As we head into 2013, let's take a look at my totally subjective list of best Atlanta area blues clubs of 2012 (in no particular order):
1. Darwin's in Marietta - Darwin's is my personal favorite because even though it's not a big club and space is sometimes limited, Darwin's provides great live blues music six days a week, plus great food and drink at reasonable prices and the friendliest staff of any of my top five. It's a perfect place to relax and have a good time, and the cover charge is never over $10, even for holidays. Regulars include The Truett Lollis Trio, Beau Hall,Little G Weevil, and jams with Bill Sheffield and The Cazanovas.
2. Blind Willie's - Blind Willie's is not very big, either, but it offers local and national blues acts. In 2012, acts included Big Bill Morganfield and The Nighthawks, plus regular entertainers who are also Georgia legends, like Tommy Brown, Houserocker Johnson and Sandra Hall. They are also often the hosts of benefits for good causes, like December's Gospel Blues Benefit for Hosea Feed the Hungry.
3. Fat Matt's Rib Shack - Fat Matt's has very little space for performers, but it still offers some of the best live blues around. 2012 performers and regulars have included Ross Pead, JT Speed, Beverly "Guitar" Watkins, Tony Bryant, and many more, every day of the week. They also have fantastic, reasonaby priced barbeque!
4. Northside Tavern - Northside Tavern is an Atlanta institution, a true "dive" bar with a friendly staff and clientele and fantastic live music 7 days a week. Regular Danny "Mudcat" Dudeck entertains regularly, and the legendary Eddie Tignor performs both solo and with Uncle Sugar on a regular basis. Northside Tavern also often features legendary players. In 2012, some of those players were Robert Lee Coleman, Albert White, Beverly "Guitar" Watkins, Stoney Brooks, and many more. The Breeze Kings, possibly Atlanta's best blues band, usually plays at Northside on Thursdays.
5. Nik's Place in Marietta - Nik's Place is in an old antebellum farm house in Marietta and features Greek food and live music. Among the performers who appear regularly are Rod Hamdallah, Beau Hall, Barry Richman and other Atlanta area favorites.
These clubs were my favorites in 2012 because they are always reliable. You can go there at least 6 days a week (7 for Northside Tavern and Fat Matt's) and odds are you are going to find good music and good company. I imagine they will continue to be favorites in 2013 as well!