Valerie June’s The Moon and Stars: Prescriptions for
Dreamers is an amalgam of genres, referencing 1960s psychedelia, 1980s pop,
gospel, Americana, and especially Memphis soul. The connection to Memphis,
where June began her career, is evident throughout, from an appearance by Carla
Thomas to sessions recorded at Sam Phillips Studio and Royal Studios. Like this
album, Memphis is a melting pot of styles, and the instrumentation on The
Moon and Stars is just as diverse as its stylistic influences—from lush
strings to horns, pedal steel, and banjo. Jointly produced by June and Jack
Splash (Alicia Keys, Kendrick Lamar, John Legend), the fourteen tracks of
original music have all of the elements necessary to guarantee success.
Title: Simple Syrup Artist: Sunny War Label: Org Music Format: LP, Digital Release Date: March 26, 2021
Following a captivating NPR Tiny Desk performance and
an acclaimed album in 2019, Sunny
became an artist to watch for fans of acoustic roots music. Since then, the
L.A.-based singer and guitarist has certainly kept busy, founding a Los Angeles
chapter of the nonprofit Food Not Bombs, marching for BLM protests, and
recording her newest album, Simple Syrup.
Title: Firebreather Artist: Skylar Rogers Label: CD Baby (distrib.) Formats: CD, Digital Release date: January 29, 2021
With a sound that draws comparisons to Etta James and Koko
Taylor, Chicago-born vocalist Skylar
Rogers is a relatively new force on the blues scene. After the success of
her debut EP, she began touring nationally in 2019 and dropped her first single
last year. Now Rogers tears into her first full-length album, Firebreather,
with a powerful blast of energy that fuels her unique blend of “soul rockin’ blues.”
Chicago’s venerable Alligator
Records is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, and to kick off the
festivities the blues label is shining the spotlight on Selwyn Birchwood, a “new generation
blues artist.” Building upon his widely acclaimed 2017 album, Pick Your
Poison, Birchwood’s new release, Living in a Burning House, is his
third project for the label. Across the 13 original tracks of the album, the
Florida native demonstrates his phenomenal technique on both six-string and lap
steel guitar, as well as his exceptional talent as a singer-songwriter and storyteller.
Bluesman Alabama Slim of Vance, Alabama was poised for
a late-in-life breakout with a scheduled appearance at the 2020 New Orleans
Jazz & Heritage Festival. Although the event was cancelled due to the
COVID-19 pandemic, Slim is moving forward with the release of his new solo project,
The Parlor. On the album, the 82-year-old performer dives deep into the soulful
blues that he grew up listening to in the South.
Grammy-nominated Zydeco artist Corey Ledet pays homage to his family and musical heritage on his latest release, Corey Ledet Zydeco. This is Ledet’s 14th album since releasing his full-length debut (3 Years 2 Late) in 2004, and features the multi-talented artist performing on vocals, accordion, drums, and washboard. Ledet’s unique style is influenced by multiple genres including early jazz, be-bop, blues, and traditional Creole music, as well as by musicians of Zydeco past and present.
The Blues Images team strike a resonant chord again
this year with their annual blues calendar and CD package. The wall calendar,
featuring a historic advertisement for Blind Lemon Jefferson’s “Pneumonia Blues”
on the cover, displays additional photographs and graphical artwork that help
bring to life the classic Pre-War blues classics included on this year’s audio
selections. Beautiful photographs of Peg Leg Howell, Bertha Henderson, Ramblin’
Thomas, Victoria Spivey, and Blind Boy Fuller will help pass the months of 2021
as the calendar’s pages are turned, including a stand-out photo of Lead Belly
and Martha Promise on their wedding day in the month of July.
Title: Uncivil War Artist: Shemekia Copeland Label: Alligator Format: CD, Digital Release date: October 23, 2020
Reigning blues queen Shemekia Copeland delves
deep into the divided heart and tarnished soul of America on her latest
release, Uncivil War. The follow-up
to her 2018 album, America’s
Child, Copeland again teams up with Nashville guitarist/producer
Will Kimbrough, who casts her signature vocal style into a spellbinding Americana
brew. Assisting with this effort is an all-star cast featuring singer-guitarist
Jason Isbell, rising young Delta blues guitarist Christone
“Kingfish” Ingram, lap steel guitarist Jerry Douglas, bluegrass mandolinist
Sam Bush, legendary Stax guitarist Steve Cropper (Booker T. & the M.G.’s), roots
guitarists Duane “King of Twang” Eddy and Webb Wilder, plus The Orphan Brigade
on background vocals.
Usually thought of as a blues musician,
is too versatile as a player to be bound within any one genre. Now 75 years old,
Wayne has been paying his dues for a long time, and that level of experience is
evident on Go, Just Do It! Playing
like a seasoned veteran—always playing the right notes, and always in the
groove—it is obvious why Wayne has been inducted into the Boogie Woogie Piano
Hall of Fame in Cincinnati. On this latest release he is joined by veteran
personnel, such as former B. B. King bassist Russell Jackson and a rhythm
section rounded out by Joey DiMarco on drums and Yuji Ihara on guitar, both of
whom have played with the Canadian act Boogie Patrol. Harmonica ace Sherman
“Tank” Doucette plays on “They Call Me the Breeze,” and Wayne is joined by Grammy
winner Diane Schuur on a cover of Percy Mayfield’s “You’re in for a Big
Surprise.” A horn section consisting of Jerry Cook on sax and Vince Mai on
trumpet rounds out some of the other notable personnel on the record.
Title: All My Dues Are Paid Artist: Frank Bey Label: Nola Blue Formats: CD, Digital Release date: January 17, 2020
Georgia native Frank Bey’s recent release, All My Dues Are Paid, is another example of how the blues continues to hang on as a viable genre, even in the year 2020. Bey began singing professionally at the age of four with the gospel group the Rising Sons, which including a brother and two cousins. At 17 he opened for Otis Redding. In the early ‘70s he was a member of the radical funk group Moorish Vanguard, who were supposed to record for James Brown’s label, but the deal fell through. Disillusioned with the music business, Bey didn’t sing for another 17 years. Yet he was “rediscovered” by a blues fan who was blown away by the depth and emotional power of Bey’s voice, which led to a late-career resurgence similar to that of the late Sharon Jones. His new album takes on an especially poignant meaning since Bey passed away on June 7th, 2020, from kidney disease.
Title: La Danse à St. Ann’s Artist: Goldman Thibodeaux and the Lawtell Playboys Label: Nouveau Electric Formats: CD, Digital Release date: May 29, 2020
Living legend Goldman Thibodeaux, a mainstay at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival for over 20 years, is one of the last musicians performing in the traditional French Creole country style known as “La La.” Now 87-years-old, Thibodeaux’s mixed Cajun-Creole roots reach back to early 20th century Louisiana, when as a young boy he saw the great Amédé Ardoin (1898–1942) perform at a local house party. One of the most revered Creole musicians in Louisiana and an early recording artist, Ardoin’s Afro-Creole accordion style paved the way for zydeco music back in 1920s and inspired Thibodeaux to take up the accordion. By 1966, he was playing with the Lawtell Playboys, a group originally founded in 1946 by Bébé and Eraste Carriere (aka Les Frères Carrière) and kept alive by several generations of family members. Now the leader of the group, Goldman Thibodeaux and the Lawtell Playboys present their latest album, La Danse à St. Ann’s.
Title: The Real McCoy Artist: Alex Dixon Label: Dixon Landing Music Formats: CD, LP, Digital Release date: March 24, 2020
If electric Chicago blues is your bag, Alex Dixon’s The Real McCoy offers the real deal. The grandson of Willie Dixon, Alex represents the younger generation of Chicago blues royalty and carries on the family tradition as a talented producer, bassist, and pianist. His family also actively works to preserve the history of the genre in the Windy City through the Blues Heaven Foundation, located in the historic Chess Records building. Sharing his love of this history is precisely what Dixon set out to accomplish with his new project: “We were trying to go for authenticity, and I wanted to showcase some of the things that I learned from my grandfather and make the album I’ve always wanted to do.” Joining Dixon in this endeavor are two blues harpists – Sugar Blue and Steve Bell, son of famed harmonica wizard Cary Bell – and other assisting musicians including Lewis “Big Lew” Powell on vocals, Melvin Taylor and Gino Matteo on guitar, and Alvino Bennett on drums.