Eric's Top Five Blues CDs of 2002
I often think that the blues is on life support. In every community, rooms dedicated to live blues are harder and harder to find. Last year was a good year for the blues though. In no particular order, here are my favorite blues CDs of 2002.
TINSLEY ELLIS: Hell or High Water (Telarc)
Tinsley Ellis' debut on Telarc has two of my favorite blues songs released in 2002: the high-powered "Ten Year Day" and the soulful "Real Bad Way." These cuts touch me in the same way that "Sweet Home Chicago" or "Loan Me A Dime" (both Fenton Robinson's original and Boz Scaggs' remake with Duane Allman) did back when I first discovered the blues in the 70s. There are 10 other songs with a Southern blues accent on this CD, but these two cuts really bring Tinsley's guitar pyrotechnics home for me. Ellis has recorded on Alligator and Capricorn, but I'd like to think that he's found a home on Telarc.
JODY WILLIAMS: Return of a Legend (Evidence)
If you like Howlin' Wolf's "Evil" or Bo Diddley's "Who Do You Love," you've already heard Jody Williams' guitar. Jody worked the Chicago blues scene in the 1950s and sat in on some of the best music out of Chess studios at 2120 South Michigan Avenue. He had a hit in the late 50s with "Lucky Lou" and Tinsley Ellis plays with Jody on some very complex blues guitar work. Jody's early career is a sad story of what might have been, big time. Less than scrupulous folks stole Jody's writer's credits and subsequent royalties. He then put his guitar under his bed and focused on his family and his day job for more than three decades, but I'm sure glad Jody's back. For blazing Chicago blues guitar, you can't beat Return of a Legend. Welcome back, Jody!
THE PLANETARY BLUES BAND (BROTHERS FROM NEPTUNE): Blues for Our
Last year, The Chicago Blues Posse made my list of favorites on these screens and in my column over at Midwest Beat magazine. There's a similar, live Chicago blues feel to Blues for Our Grandfather from the Planetary Blues Band. This CD honors the Schaefer-Murray brothers' grandfather Martin H. Schaefer. The Brothers from Neptune, Martin, Michael and Robert are a
powerhouse with Chicago Blues Posse member Glenn E. Wierzbicki on drums. When the brothers play Elmore James' "Talk to Me Baby" or Muddy Waters' "Cross Eyed Cat," they honor their grandfather and the blues. Two original songs, "Blues for Our Grandfather" and "Autograph My Guitar" are online at www.planetaryblues.com. Check these guys out, 'cause they sure can play the blues.
SUSAN TEDESCHI: Wait for Me (Artemis/Tone Cool)
Four years ago, I thought that Susan Tedeschi's Artemis/Tone Cool debut, Just Won't Burn, simmered and smoked. I wondered how she could follow that incredible disc. Well, Susan Tedeschi has and Wait for Me has been definitely worth the wait. Although I received the disc in December, Wait for Me is a blues record for the long haul. Turn up "Gonna Move" for its
uptempo groove and soaring guitar parts. "I Fell in Love" is one of my favorite dancefloor-fillers powered by some great barrelhouse piano. Susan gets mighty, mighty funky "'Til I Found You" and "Hampmotized," and there's also some thoughtful ballads here, too. Susan Tedeschi's Wait for Me is proof positive that there are younger women who'll make their own way in the blues as they follow the trails blazed by Bonnie Raitt.
TAB BENOIT: Wetlands (Telarc)
Full disclosure: this past year, my review of Tab's Seattle stop not only landed on the screens of Cosmik Debris, but also Tab's own website, www.tabbenoit.com. Even if I didn't enjoy these 15 cyberseconds of fame, I'd still shout about Tab Benoit's Wetlands. His version of Boozoo Chavis' "Dog Hill" takes us right down to a late night juke joint in Louisiana, and Otis Redding's "These Arms of Mine" gets the Benoit treatment, funked-up swamp guitar and mighty soulful vocals. Benoit's apprenticeship includes work with Tabby Thomas (a Hoodoo King and proprietor of legendary Baton Rouge nightspot Tabby's Blues Box) and the late, great Luther Allison. For Louisiana blues, Tab Benoit is the real deal.
Last Minute Picks from 2001
There were many CDs released in late 2001 that I didn't discover until 2002, and I'd like to shout about just a couple of them. One of my favorite blues CDs is the debut from LITTLE JOHNNY AND THE UNKNOWN BLUES BAND, Workingman Blues (Fat Man Records, available at www.littlejohnny1.com). There's some great blues from a true Chicago blues talent on this disc. Little Johnny was in a tragic motorcycle accident last summer that would have sidelined
mere mortals, but he's bounced back in a big way at South Chicago nightspots.
THE CHICAGO BLUES ANGELS' Movin' Out (Blue Bella) is pure blues. When I first heard Armando Cortez rip into "Don't Blame Me" I knew that this band knew the blues cold. Turn up "Rooster Blues" or "Good Time Charlie," or better yet, preview an exciting local band online, www.chicagobluesangels.com.
There you have it. If these discs don't help you get your blues fix, you need more help than I can give you. All in all, 2002 was a good year for the blues, and I'd like to think I've picked some of the best.