As we note down annually in each year's retrospective article, the Blues/ R&B genre in general is alive and well. But what happens with the Blues itself? Are they, as most people believe, buried twelve meters under in music's own graveyard? Is the scene still alive or are we left with only a bunch of great old bluesmen? What lies beyond the 3 or 4 well known names that have surpassed obscurity?
This article's purpose is to gather some of the genre's artists of the present day, which I believe deserve the attention of the music fans.
The menu is rich and it contains of: Americans who find their audience in Europe, British searching their sound in the U.S., women, men and youngsters, aged from 12 to 71, underground musicians and established artists, well experienced and newcomers, playing from folk & jungle up to hard rocking blues. Oh, there are Greeks too...
So, whether you indulge in this style or either meeting it for the first time, I hope that herein you will find music that will keep you company for a while or even longer.
Additions and complaints are always accepted on the familiar complaint box: the social networking space at the bottom of the page (just scroll twelve meters down).
1. Black Diamond Heavies
The style: Blues, Soul, Garage, Punk
The story: Children of priests and bourbon producers, this duo (keyboards, drums) from the southern U.S. states plow the globe by punking out and growling the blues.
The album: Every Damn Time (2007). Sweat, noise and spirit recorded in just two sessions.
The story: British guitar player with a live experience of many miles and a back catalogue of great quality, he signs with a major label and slowly gains recognition. Alternatively: Do you see any Kevin Shirleys around?
The album: Live (2010). His first release with Rounder/Continental puts him on the European map, opening the road to success.
Jams with: Walter Trout, Eric Steckel, Popa Chubby
The story: Having a CV that every record label would kill for, this obscene bisexual American gives an average of 250 concerts per year at the age of 46, while she records consecutively for 25 years, awaiting recognition.
The album: White Trash Girl (2005). The title track says it all and her voice is better than ever.
Jams with: Both men and women. Former member -along with Dani Wilde and Deborah Coleman- of Ruf's Blues Caravan.
The story: An orphan since he was 7 years old, he tangles with heroin at 18, gets clean at 20 and devotes himself to music ever since, playing blues which he often mixes up with punk, country and hip-hop music.
The album: The Good, The Bad And The Chubby (2002). The album that displays it all. A songwriter that doesn't prefer covering others' songs, a lyrical diversity, a guitar player who's got it in him, but also the typical production that keeps the project from taking off.
Jams with: Walter Trout, Ron Sayer Jr and anyone else who likes bad boys.
The story: He plays everything (slide, Dobro, pedal steel) in the price of one. Having made a name for himself in Florida, U.S.A. since he was a young kid, he impresses Rick Derringer and then Blind Pig Records, who has him since 2009 in its catalogue.
The album: Sugar Shack (2009). The album that places him at the forefront of the Blues world. The best is yet to come.
The story: Troubled childhood, addictions, music studies, talent shows, contract with a record company, more addictions, imprisonment and a new beginning in the mid 00s for the great Californian singer.
The album: Don't Explain (2001). The collaboration with Joe Bonamassa in soul standards covers highlights her amazing voice, which can stand in any comparison with the great ladies of the genre.
The story: He has served Indie rock, studied Physics and Bukowski, and listened to Hendrix and Jeff Beck before returning to the blues, which he revives through his great debut album.
The album: Follow Your Mind First (2010). He states: "My record is a reaction to what I can only describe as appalling white boy karaoke blues albums by so called guitar greats that have been polluting the airwaves since Stevie Ray Vaughan died".
The story: This Austrian is a discovery of Ruf's owner, who was captivated by her potential and persuaded her to sign a record deal, offering to her the artistic freedom she had sought but not found since 1977.
The album: Try Me (2010). Her unique voice boosts the compositions, with the assistance of highly qualified guitar players such as Montoya & Sadinas.
The story: Hailing from Serbia, she started professionally in Northern Europe in the late 90s and has been consistent ever since, with quality albums and a constant live presence on both sides of the Atlantic.
The album: Unconditional (2011). Ana seems ready to fly. She's inspired by New Orleans, the music tradition of which is obvious in this release.
The story: A peddler since he was 13, the now 72-year old Steven Wold entered a studio for the first time at 63 and saw success coming through Jools Holland's TV show at 65.
The album: You Can't Teach An Old Dog New Tricks (2011). The transitions between uplifting boogie and emotional folk sounds is the -more successful here than ever- recipe that brings the desired combination of commercial and artistic success.
The story: The voice that carries all the important legacy of the American music tradition. Since 2010 she joined musical forces with the great guitarist Derek Trucks (Tedeschi Trucks Band), with which they go hand in hand in life since 2001. The greatest have not yet arrived.
The album: Just Won't Burn (1998). The successful combination of commercial and artistic success that is so rarely found in this genre.
The story: She convinced (or so the world believes) a major label to sign a contract with her, by using her successful concert webcasts. After 2006's hit song, "I Wish I Was A Punk Rocker", the system practically washed her out.
The album: Merchants & Thieves (2010). A turn towards the blues and quality after two lightweight, easy albums and a rejection from her label. With this voice and this repertoire, she can only see better days.
The story: Played with Canned Heat, matured in John Mayall's Bluesbreakers and by the end of the 80s he opened his own wings, generously offering the blues with a continuous presence in the studio and the stage. A real worker, a great guitar player.
The album: The Outsider (2008). Texas, Chicago, SRV and everything you love about this genre is in this album, via his ever impressive guitar playing.
Jams with: Joe Bonamassa, Oli Brown and many, many others
The story: A nephew of an Allman Brothers member, he jams with Buddy Guy at the age of 13, starts recording with his own band at 18, while at 20 joins in his uncle's band, which he serves till this day. One of the greatest guitar players around (with or without the word slide in front of "guitar").
The album: Songlines (2006). Influences from India to the American south, dreamy guitar playing and controlled jamming in a feast of sounds and colors.
Jams with: Eric Clapton, Bob Dylan and anyone that asks for a touch of slide in his music
The story: Born a few months before the Millennium, grabbed the guitar at the age of 5 and at 8 he is the official Buddy Guy's protege. At 12, he is working on his second album!
The album: Cyclone (2011). Already technically robust in voice and guitar playing, he makes you wonder how far he'll get when he literally experiences the blues and his voice and himself mature. A Bonamassa in the making.