Sometimes being a fan of a musical artist or group can be difficult to keep up with. In Chicago there are so many fine blues talents, your head would spin like Linda Blair trying to keep up with all of them. To help with that issue, here is a list of Chicago blues albums that came out in 2013. Some went under the radar while others did really well. Some were collaborations, some featured fine guest appearances and others introduced new talents. All the artists are primarily from or are based in the Chicagoland area.
All are worthy of a listen. Fans may not like them all. Some fans may prefer the more traditional Delta sound. Others may like a more rocking blues. Still others like that electric Chicago blues. Everyone has their own preference. No two people like the same thing.
This is not a review of the releases. The writer of this article is a fan and not a critic. The goal is to get the word out. So here is the list. Give them a listen.
Buddy Guy – Rhythm and Blues
James Cotton – Cotton Mouth Man
Toronzo Cannon – John the Conquer Root
Mike Wheeler – Self Made Man
Lurrie Bell – Blues In My Soul
Planetary Blues – Once Upon a Time in the South Loop
Mississippi Heat – Delta Bound
Melvin Taylor – Taylor Made
Tail Dragger – Stop Lyin’
Studebaker John’s Maxwell Street Kings – Kingsville Jukin’
Shawn Holt and the Teardrops – Daddy Told Me
John Primer – Knockin’ Around These Blues
The Kinsey Report – Standing (I’ll Be) EP
Barrelhouse Chuck & Kim Wilson – Driftin’ From Town to Town
Cash Box Kings – Black Toppin’
Buddy Guy Rhythm and Blues
Buddy Guy's 27th studio album. Rhythm & Blues is a double CD with one disc of blues and one disc of Rhythm. To be honest some songs could be on either disc. The legend of Chicago Blues has not slowed down even at the age of 77.
Buddy had some friends making guest appearances including Kid Rock, Keith Urban, Beth Hart, Gary Clark Jr., Muscle Shoals Horns and several members of Aerosmith.
The album was released in July.
James Cotton Cotton Mouth Man
James Cotton is known as Mr. Super Harp. James survived a bout of throat cancer and his vocal pipes took a beating. Fortunately it did not affect his harmonica playing. On "Cotton Mouth Man" James has some of his friends help out on vocals. Gregg Allman, Ruthie Foster, Keb Mo', Delbert McClinton and Warren Haynes make guest appearances. Warren Haynes and Joe Bonamassa also provide some guitar licks.
Darrell Nulisch provides vocals on five songs and is a member of James regular band. Other members of James band are Tom Holland on guitar, Noel Neal on bass and Jerry Porter on drums.
"Cotton Mouth Man" was released in May.
The album was produced by Tom Hambridge. Tom also played drums on several tunes. Chuck Leavell (Allman Bros., Sea Level, etc.) provided keyboards throughout the disc.
Toronzo Cannon named his latest album after the mysterious hoodoo voodoo root that is used to cast spells. Muddy Waters mentions it in his songs as well as others. He provides Jimi Hendrix type guitar riffs, soulful vocals and a contemporary sound that will soon make him a household name.
Toronzo is the Chicago blues next big thing. By day he appears on CTA buses as a mild mannered bus driver, but at night he straps on his Gibson Flying V and turns into a guitar playing mad man.
By the time this article is finished, he will have flown from San Francisco to Armenia in a single bound.
"John The Conquer Root" was released in August.
Kinsey Report Standing (I’ll Be)
The Kinsey Report have finally put out some newly recorded material. The only disappointment is that it's only a four song EP. All songs are classic Kinsey Report at their finest. It features that familiar versatility that they are known for. There is the rockin' guitar, the classic blues and always a hint of reggae. This is their first new release since 1998.
It was released on November 1st.
Lurrie Bell Blues In My Soul
Lurrie Bell is the prodigal son of late Chicago harpist Carey. Lurrie has fought through some emotionl and drug issues. He also has bounced back from double losses of his father and wife in 2007.
"Blues In my Soul" is a nice follow up to 2012's "The Devil Ain't Got No Music". Appearing on the album is harmonica great Mathew Skoller. Mathew also appeared with Lurrie at last year's Chicago Blues Festival. This recording was released in June.
Tail Dragger Stop Lyin'
James Yancey Jones is also know as Tail Dragger. He got the nickname from Howlin' Wolf because he was often late for gigs.
Stop Lyin' is a lost recording that has sat on a shelf since 1982. It was released in April by Delmark Records.
The vocal influence of Howlin' Wolf is evident on this recording. It also features the late Chicago bass great WIllie Kent. Others on this recording include Johnny B. Moore on guitar, Larry Taylor on drums, Eddie 'Jewtown' Burks on harp and Jesse Lee Williams on guitar.
Melvin Taylor Taylor Made
Melvin Taylor is a blues guitarist who includes a heavy dose of jazz. This six song release is a blend of just that. With jazz instrumentals and fast and furious notes coming at you, it's a guitar lovers delight. Melvin is headed to Ukraine for the master jazz competition.
Melvin can be found performing regularly at Rosa's Lounge in Chicago.
"Taylor Made" was released in March.
Mississippi Heat Delta Bound
Mississippi Heat are a group of musicians lead by harmonica playing Pierre Lacocque. It's their twentieth year together and their tenth release. This is a solid blues release with fourteen songs, twelve penned by Pierre. Vocalist Inetta Visor provide powerful vocals.
Guest appearances from former alumnus include vocalist Deitra Farr, zydeco giant Chubby Carrier, guitarists Carl Weathersby and Billy Flynn.
"Delta Bound" was released in August.
Planetary Blues Band Once Upon A Time In The South Loop
This band of brothers originate from Northwest Indiana. The reference to the south Loop is a reference to Buddy Guy's Legends in downtown Chicago. Planetary Blues have played frequently at Legends, sometimes Buddy joins them on stage.
This is a solid blues album. Hopefully they won't stray again from what their good at, playing blues.
"Once Upon A Time In the South Loop" was released in July.
Mike Wheeler Self Made Man
Mike Wheeler has paid his dues as a sideman for many artists in Chicago. He has thirty years of experience. He spent time with Big James and the Chicago Playboys and has performed with Peaches Staten too.
"Self Made Man" highlights feature the harmonica talent of Omar Coleman on "Self Made Man" and "Get Your Mind Right". Mike's guitar shines on "You're Doing Wrong" and "Moving Forward".
"Self Made Man" was released in December of 2012, but was included due to the late date.