There’s no way we can claim to track all the new music that comes out in a year. But we’re wired to find what we like. While I certainly enjoy the alt. country artists so popular on Twangville (caught Jason Isbell’s show at the Electric Factory last summer – fantastic!) I tend to write more often about blues-based artists, who have been an important part of the Americana scene for many years. So I’ve confined my year-end list to the best blues-based albums released in 2015. For what it’s worth – my ten favorite blues-based albums of 2015 are:
1. Tinsley Ellis – Tough Love – Ellis has always been a great talent of the Stevie Ray Vaughan guitar slinger school. But with Tough Love he has pulled it back a notch, let his songwriting skills shine, and produced a masterpiece.
2. Otis Taylor – Hey Joe Opus … Red Meat – Always experimental, Taylor took a risk (“Hey Joe” twice on one album and three renditions of his instrumental “Sunday Morning”!) and produced a collection of songs meant to be heard together as a haunting, beautiful listening experience.
3. The Acoustic Blues & Roots of Duke Robillard – Blues guitar great Robillard has produced a tour de force of roots music styles ranging from blues to ragtime to country.
4. Sonny Landreth – Bound by the Blues – Straight forward blues from a talent long among the genre’s shining lights.
5. Guy Davis – Kokomo Kidd – One of the greats of his generation, great album.
6. Steve Earl & the Dukes – Terraplane – Americana master Earle may cover the blues as well as versatile giants Ry Cooder and David Bromberg – but a little crustier.
7. Smokin’ Joe Kubek & Bnois King – Fat Man’s Shine Parlor – We lost Smokin’ Joe back in October. This album was a pretty good going away present from him and partner King to us.
8. Buddy Guy – Born to Play Guitar – Yes, Buddy Guy released an album this year. Yes, it belongs on the list.
9. Charlie Musselwhite – I Ain’t Lyin’ – Simple recipe: Catch one of the best living blues harp players at a great live show with a great supporting cast, record it.
10. Leo “Bud” Welch – Don’t Prefer No Blues – Just your average, every day precocious young artist who was”discovered” at age 81, still rockin’ at 83.
About the author: Bill Wilcox is a roots music enthusiast recently relocated from the Washington, DC area to Philadelphia, PA and back again.