Picks for the Millenium
Ellen’s favorite blues discs of the
for yourself or your blues loving friends...
afford the front row seats for the next B.B. King or Keb Mo’ concert?
How about a cd or two? The following list was developed based on
these simple standards: I liked the disc and the artist; I think
most or all of the cuts are solid (too often, only a few of the
cuts on a cd are worth more than one listen); and, the disc was
released in 2000 or the very end of 1999.
(OR LOW KEY ELECTRIC) CHOICES
Harris and Henry Butler – vu-du menz (Alligator 4872)
My hands down acoustic favorite of 2000. This disc brings together
the amazing piano work and mature voice of Henry Butler with the
new generation acoustic guitar and suggestive singing of Corey Harris.
Butler is a recognized blues piano genius, Harris is a leader in
the new wave of African American acoustic blues players.
Davis – Butt Naked Free (Red House 142)
This is Guy’s third or fourth disc, and definitely one of his best.
Guy is a strong vocalist and guitarist...also one of those leading,
(relatively) young, new African American artists.
Youngblood Hart – Start With the Soul (Hannibal 1449)
This is Alvin’s most recent release and, like most of his recent
discs, combines blues with something else...perhaps just Alvin’s
own musical genre. For an exceptional, straight-ahead, all blues
disc, check out his 1996 release on Okeh, Big Mama’s Door. Another
of the new generation—and truly a topnotch musician.
Bibb – Home to Me (EarthBeat! R2 79793)
I really just discovered Eric this year, and was honored to introduce
him at the Champlain Valley Folk Festival in Burlington last August.
This is his most recent disc but if you like this one, you’re gonna
like all of his releases on this label. You can email the company
for more information. EarthBeat! is a subsidiary of the wonderful
Music For Little People organization. And, Eric, like Corey, Guy,
Alvin and Keb Mo’, is right up there as a leader of the new generation.
(Email EarthBeat! at email@example.com)
Geremia – The Devil’s Music (Red House 127)
Paul has been recording blues and folk-blues for decades. What is
so extraordinary about him—like Roy Book Binder—is the consistent
excellence in everything he does. This newest release is a superb
collection of blues standards plus a few new blues written by Geremia.
Muldaur – Password (Hightone 8125)
It’s so good to have Geoff back as a recording artist and performer.
I first came across Geoff’s music when he was in the Jim Kweskin
Jug Band, with his ex-wife Maria, back in the ‘60s. Most recently,
I heard him as a guest on A Prairie Home Companion. He is an extraordinary
musician—a musician’s musician—and this disc brings together a combination
of blues and folk cuts.
– Blues Everywhere I Go (M.C. Records MC0038)
Okay, it’s true, this one came out in late ’99, but it was my favorite
from last year and it has just gotten better and better the more
I listened to it over the past year. As you may recall, this was
Odetta’s first new disc in 14 years. She’s joined by a knockout
ensemble led by Dr. John. If you don’t buy any other blues disc
this season, get this one.
ELECTRIC PLUS SOME PARTY MUSIC
King & Eric Clapton – Riding With the King (Reprise
Yes, the guys are both masters of the blues, but put them together
and they are more than one plus one. This is just solid, solid blues.
One of the best releases bringing together artists of different
generations. You can’t go wrong with this.
Mahal – The Best of the Private Years (Private Music
For about a decade, Taj has been recording for the Private label.
This is just what its title says it is: a best-of album. Some great
cuts. If you’re looking for a one-disc way to introduce your new
friends to recent Taj, this is the one to buy.
Duke Robillard Band – Explorer (Shanachie 9025)
There is simply no one who plays tighter, better blues guitar. Duke’s
latest release continues his long tradition of great blues plus
a few experiments. I also highly recommend his 1999 release on Shanachie,
New Blues For Modern Man.
Foley – Love Comin’ Down (Shanachie 8036)
Sue Foley is one of the greatest living Canadian blues musicians.
Yup, Canadian. Granted, she came by her chops at least partial during
her years playing with the Antone’s gang in Texas. She is one hot
guitarist, and she has a fine, quirky voice.
Mooney – Gone to Hell (Blind Pig 5063)
I am so happy about this disc. I’ve been a fan of Mooney’s for at
least two decades, but until this release, I thought his work had
been a bit unpredictable in recent years. With this, Mooney is back
in top form with some smoldering slide guitar and steamy singing.
Ellis – Kingpin (Capricorn 314 546 215-2)
This one’s for the sharp, hot, full-tilt electric blues guitar fan
on your list. Tinsley continues to hone his chops.
Ramos – West Coast House Party (Evidence 26110-2)
This is the blue party to die for: Kid Ramos joined by the likes
of Little Charlie, Gatemouth Brown, Duke Robillard, Kim Wilson,
Junior Watson, Fred Kaplan, and the list goes on and on. Great fun
AND great musicians.
Zinn – The Chill (Alligator 4876)
Rusty is friends with the guys on the Kid Ramos disc—in fact, Rusty
is one of the guest artists on that disc. This is a fine collection
of blues, and party tunes. Nothing superfluous. Just some
COLLECTIONS, REISSUES, AND JUST QUIRKY
Artists – Blue Haze: Songs of Jimi Hendrix (Ruf 1053)
This collection of covers of Hendrix tunes works because everyone
on it is good, really good. They may not sound like Hendrix, but
they get the heart of Hendrix. The disc includes 16 cuts, ranging
from Eric Bibb’s acoustic cover of the ballad Angel to Walter Trout
& the Free Radicals tearing up on Hey Joe to Taj Mahal’s somewhere
in-between treatment of All Along the Watchtower. My favorite: Michelle
Shocked doing House Burning Down.
Artists – Mojo Mamas (Blue Chicago 5005)
A sampler of eight of the meanest blues mamas of the current Chicago
scene. They’re all authentic, they’re all convincing, and they all
come by the blues fair and square.
Slim – The Folkways Years 1959-1973 (Smithsonian Folkways
I’ve included this reissue by way of leading you to all of the Smithsonian
Folkways reissues. The label has re-released many classic blues
and folk artists on cd during the past few years, and each is produced
thoughtfully with wonderful information booklets. The Memphis Slim
collection is no exception. For a complete catalogue of the label’s
releases, email them at firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit their website
last three recommendations definitely fall within the “quirky” category:
Waits – Mule Variations (Anti-Epitaph 86547-2)
This is a carry over from 1999 that I just had to include. This
album is truly amazing. If you’re a fan of Waits already, you’re
gonna get your socks knocked off by this one. If you’re only marginally
familiar with his work, this album is a great place to begin...then
go back and listen to his earliest albums from the ‘70s.
Nelson – Milk Cow Blues (Island 314 542 517-2)
Listen, I love Willie Nelson. And, I firmly believe all great singers
have a blues sensibility (listen to Caruso doing one of those weepy
Puccini or Verdi arias if you don’t believe me). Anyway, this disc
confirms my belief in Willie. He has some great blues friends joining
him, too: Dr. John, Francine Reed, Jonny Lang, B.B.King, Susan Tedescho,
and Kenny Wayne Shepherd. All your friends will like this. Trust
Morrison & Linda Gail Lewis – You Win Again (Exile/Pointblank
So, you know who Van Morrison is, but have you ever heard of Linda
Gail Lewis? I sure hadn’t until this disc came across my desk a
month ago. She is none other than the enormously talented sister
of Jerry Lee Lewis. She gets those 88s smokin’ just as hot as her
brother does. Wait’ll you hear Van and Gail sing together! A party
album, with a few torchy songs thrown in for good measure. Another
sure thing crowd pleaser.
more suggestions? Check out Jackie's