The best blues albums of 2015
From sad goodbyes to miraculous comebacks and new faces, 2015 has been another roller-coaster year on the blues scene. Here we celebrate the albums that provided the soundtrack...
What an incredible year of blues! Yes, we said the same thing at the close of 2012, 2013 and, well, you get the idea. Yet 2015 has topped them all for thrills and drama, and not just because this magazine celebrated its third birthday.
The biggest news of 2015 was the sad passing of BB King. The king of the blues had been ill for many years but it had never stopped him from touring. This time it was different, and when the news broke, so did our hearts. No other artist defines the blues like BB King. Not Robert Johnson, T-Bone Walker or even Muddy Waters. BB was the link between the Mississippi Delta and the 21st century. He not only represented the blues but he was instrumental in its development, from his early days in 50s Memphis to late-60s sophistication and beyond. He even made U2 seem cool for a brief period in the 80s.
While we suffered losses, we also enjoyed remarkable gains when Dr Feelgood legend Wilko Johnson and blues rock ambassador Walter Trout both defied what had seemed like certain death to emerge cured and firing on all cylinders.
We’ve witnessed the rise of BluesFest, the birth of the Lead Belly Festival, and even managed to get Van Morrison on our front cover. The music we love has also seen some mainstream exposure thanks to the rise of Austin, Texas resident Gary Clark Jr, a man who, like Jimi Hendrix, has fashioned blues in his own image.
It wouldn’t have been such a great year for blues without the 50 quality releases that we’ve selected as the best of 2015, which you’ll find on the following pages. Unlike previous years, this time we’ve numbered them in descending order and, for the first time, selected an album of the year. To hear highlights, try our Spotify playlist, specially built for TR+ members.
– Ed Mitchell (The Blues Editor)
REVIEWERS: Rich Chamberlain, Rob Hughes, Hugh Fielder, Polly Glass, Rev Keith A Gordon, Joel McIver, Ed Mitchell, Johnny Sharp, Patrick Wells, David West, Henry Yates
50. CROBOT – Something Supernatural
Blending sci‐fi tales with funky, bluesed‐up hard rock, the Pennsylvanians cut swaggering, razor‐sharp shapes with heavy‐ hitters such as Nowhere To Hide and the ferocious Legend Of The Spaceborne Killer. Make sure you catch them live because that’s where they really shine. PG
49. JARED JAY NICHOLS – Old Glory & The Wild Revival
A young blues gunslinger with bite, Nichols made a swaggering statement of intent on highlights Crazy and the sweet, swinging Can You Feel It. A bit Paul Kossoff, a bit Stevie Ray Vaughan and Joe Bonamassa – a lot of guitar hero fun. PG
48. JEFFREY FOUCAULT – Salt As Wolves
**Jeffrey Foucault continues to craft effortlessly timeless, existential country‐blues. The rootsy groove of Left This Town and the brooding cynicism of Jesus Will Fix It For You were among the highlights of this album. **PW
47. REBECCA DOWNES – Back To The Start
Always tasteful in delivery despite her huge vocal prowess, Rebecca Downes delivered a real punch to the gut with her debut album. Laughter From Her Room is a standout ballad with a subtle edge. JM
46. ROBIN TROWER – Something’s About To Change
Released on his 70th birthday, Something’s About To Change was dubbed by Trower as “a new chapter musically”, crossing his lifelong love of vintage American blues with the bucked hips of James Brown to sublime effect. HY
45. CEDELL DAVIS – Last Man Standing
Plantation‐raised and nearly 90 years old, there’s no doubt that CeDell Davis is authentic to the core – just like his new album, Last Man Standing. Check out the relentless grind of _Who’s __Lovin’ You Tonight_ for the gritty evidence. JM
44. DEBBIE DAVIES – Love Spin
Just in case you needed any reminder of the impressively prolific Debbie Davies’ guitar and songwriting chops, Love Spin showed that the former Albert Collins band member ￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼remains a stellar creative force. RC
43. LEO 'BUD' WELCH – I Don't Prefer No Blues
With just two albums released in 82 years, you could hardy describe Delta guitarist Leo Welch as being prolific. Fortunately, album number two’s rip‐roaring electric blues never failed to hit the spot – check out Cadillac Baby for a thrilling taste of his fiery sound. JM
42. CLUTCH – Psychic Warfare
Ohhh, this was good. The Maryland blues‐rockers really hit their stride on album number 11. From the blistering heavy groove of X‐Ray Visions to the uproariously fun likes of Sucker For The Witch, Psychic Warfare did brutal, beautiful things to bluesy ingredients.
41. CHARLIE MUSSELWHITE – "I Ain't Lyin'..."
Blues legend Charlie Musselwhite wasn’t reinventing the genre with “I Ain’t Lyin’...”. Instead, he was simply kicking out a high‐energy live set of old‐school blues, backed up by a real crackerjack band that featured the fretboard talents of guitarist Matt Stubbs. KAG
40. THE KENTUCKY HEADHUNTERS WITH JOHNNIE JOHNSON – Meet Me In Bluesland
The Kentucky Headhunters are a juke joint band at heart, so as you’d expect, this long‐ lost studio session with legendary pianist Johnnie Johnson captured a truly electrifying mix of blues, R&B and rock’n’roll. A very welcome discovery. KAG