by Rhetta Akamatsu
It’s time to look back at 2015 and pick some don’t miss albums I was going to do 5 but I just couldn’t choose. So here are 10 albums every roots music lover should have in their collection, in random order.
Voo Davis was born in Alabama and moved to Chicago as a child. Although he is based in Chicago now, the South obviously has filled a huge part of his soul. His voice evokes Joe Cocker and other growly-voiced rockers and the sound may have a bit of Chicago grit but it has large doses of classic Southern rock and blues. Add evocative lyrics that make you see and feel that midnight mist and hear and experience the sounds and sights of Clarksdale, Mississippi and the Cajun country of Louisiana and the Alabama coastline you have a fantastic musical journey.
Mic Kolassa has a voice that was made for the blues. On Ghosts of the Riverside Hotel, it is easy to imagine those spirits of the Riverside Hotel in Clarksdale laughing and singing along, nodding in approval and appreciation as they listen, just as you will.
Delta Moon has been setting the bar high for a long time now, but they reach new heights with the just-released Low Down. They offer nine original compositions here and three fantastic covers.
You may not think of the Holy Land as a typical home of the blues, but Lazer Lloyd insures that Israel has one phenomenal guitar player and blues rock performer, and a truly inspired and inspiring songwriter. This whole CD is real, as the blues should be, and healing, as they can be. Lazer Lloyd is one of my favorite discoveries of the year so far.
What fantastic fun this CD is! I love this new trend among blues musicians of getting right back to basics and just having fun on record. That is what happens here when Britain’s #1 blues man Ian Siegel travels to Zebra Ranch Studios in Mississippi to meet up with his friends and extremely talented roots musicians Luther and Cody Dickinson, Alvin Youngblood Hart and Jimbo Mathus and jam on tape.
Fiona Boyes is an amazing guitar player and singer from Australia, with a husky voice, a talent for songwriting, and a love of unusual instruments The album includes 9 original songs and 3 great covers. With Boyes’ husky voice and the fascinating sounds of the various guitars, this is a marvelous example of how great stripped-down blues can sound.
Betty Fox seems as though she should be a pop princess with her blonde good looks. But do not be fooled. From the first track of Slow Burn, “Think About It,” you know she is full of soul and steeped in blues. Whether the style is soul, gospel, blues, or jazz, Fox proves she can manage it and make it all sound fabulous. This is a “Slow Burn” you will want to experience.
It’s hard to believe that Buddy Guy just turned 79 years old. You would never know it listening to him on Born to Play Guitar, except for the stories the lyrics tell and his tribute to two of his dear friends, Muddy Waters and B.B. King. He sounds just as strong and his music is just as fresh and contemporary as ever.
Jimbo Mathus is almost impossible to categorize. This Mississippi native’s music is a combination of all sorts of Southern styles from gospel to blues to country to rock, fueled with mysticism and given a psychedelic twist. Mathus makes music that is his own blend and no one else’s, and it is held together by his storytelling and his vision.
When it comes to contemporary blues, Ellis is one of the very best and Tough Love captures him at his very best, with a band that complements him perfectly. This one is indeed often tough and always passionate and honest, as listeners expect from Ellis. Longtime fans and new listeners alike will be delighted.
As always, it was a good year for roots and blues. We can all look forward to what is coming in 2016.