Who to include, who to leave out; whether to go traditional or keep it modern. These are the challenges of dwindling the year’s output of blues releases down to a selection of five.
Bona fide stars like Shemekia Copeland and hidden gems like Vancouver’s Steve Kozak have put out discs this past year. Colin James marked a milestone with his 15th studio recording, aptly called Fifteen. A live set on CD with accompanying DVD from Muddy Waters and the Rolling Stones in 1981 has been unearthed. Gary Clark Jr. has risen quickly in the hearts and eras of blues fans around the world.
As per usual, there is no shortage of contenders for the list. For better or worse, here it is as we at CBC Blues see it.
1. Bonnie Raitt, Slipstream
It was seven years between studio albums for this icon of blues, pop and roots music. With Slipstream, Raitt came back in full force, following the release with a tour schedule of concert halls and festivals that continues well into the coming year. The guitar playing, vocal work and showmanship are true Raitt, at the top of her game. In a world where pop stars are washed up by the age of 30, it’s nice to see a woman in her 60s going strong. Head over to BonnieRaitt.com to stream songs from the album.
2. Julian Fauth, Everybody Ought to Treat a Stranger Right
It is the demeanour of the man that is the hidden force within Julian Fauth. He is gracious and humble, soft-spoken and unassuming. When he sits down at the piano, however, we are introduced to a whole new person. Fauth’s flair on the piano is steeped in authenticity. And it seems to flow with ease.
3. Eric Bibb, Deeper in the Well
Speaking of authenticity, when you come from the Bibb lineage it is impossible for a man like Eric Bibb to deny the music within him. He could learn the true beauty of blues and soulful singing from no one better than his father, Leon Bibb. The simplicity of voice, guitar and banjo transport the listener to another time and place, pretty close to where it all began.
4. The Harpoonist and the Axe Murderer, Checkered Past
It would be a crime to highlight the year in blues without paying due attention to some of the young upstarts. Among the bunch are Matt Andersen, 24th Street Wailers and catl.. The Harpoonist and the Axe Murderer are doing their part, and admirably so, to keep the tradition of the blues moving forward. Checkered Past is up for recording of the year at the Maple Blues Awards, to be handed out in Toronto in January.
5. Shakura S'Aida, Time
There are so many talented and vibrant sides to Shakura S’Aida, it is no wonder that her 2012 release, Time, was a double disc. Two sides of blues and two sides of rockin’ soul, and even still she could have easily added a third disc devoted to her affinity for imbuing symphonies with soul. Add to this great album a Blues Music Award and four Maple Blues Award nominations, and S’Aida has more than earned her place in the top five for the year.
Anyone compiling this list would have a set of their own faves to hoist up. I challenge you to do just that. Tell us here at CBC Blues, and your friends in the community, what are your top five.
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on Dec 17, 2012