Contemporary and classic blues artists at their peak are featured in our latest blues playlist.
SUSAN TEDESCHI ~ from the album JUST WON’T BURN
LOOKING FOR ANSWERS
Born in Boston, Massachusetts and raised in the suburb of Norwell, Susan was strongly influenced by the B.B. King, Mississippi John Hurt and Lightnin’ Hopkins records found in her father’s vinyl collection. Susan received her Bachelor of Music degree in musical composition and performance from the prestigious Berklee College of Music at age 20 in 1991, and began her blues music career in earnest.
“I think that to become your own artist and have your sound, a big part of that is the influences of what came before. They all become part of you, and what touches you, you emulate through things.” ~ Susan Tedeschi
On Susan Tedeschi’s sophomore solo album, Just Won’t Burn, a Tedeschi original composition, “Looking For Answers,” showed promise of her bright songwriting future. Although the lyrics are rudimentary, the constant repetition of “looking for answers,” drills the universal emotional feeling shared by everyone. The song has a haunting atmosphere, but Susan’s vocal is soulful and beautiful.
Susan Tedeschi always has surrounded herself with stellar musicians; she credits a 1998 tour with B.B. King and Buddy Guy for making blues an addiction. Tom Hambridge, another Berklee College graduate, was the producer on this release in addition to his drum work on all tracks.
Looking For Answers – personnel
Vocals, Slide Guitar – Susan Tedeschi
Electric Guitar – Adrienne Hayes
Fiddle – Ian Kennedy
Bass – Jim Lamond
Drums – Tom Hambridge
TOMMY CASTRO ~ from the album A BLUESMAN CAME TO TOWN
“I’ve been fortunate enough to record for Alligator Records the last 12 years. This is the seventh album we’ve released together. I try to keep my music fresh by taking different approaches and writing and recording different types of songs.
“With A Bluesman Came To Town, what I have for you is a record of songs that tell a story. It’s the story of a young man from a small town. One day a guitar playing bluesman comes to his town. From that point on, the young man’s life will never be the same. It’s based on a classic hero’s journey: the odyssey of a musician’s life.
“I brought in the big guns this time and collaborated with legendary producer Tom Hambridge. I co-wrote most of the songs with him. In telling the story, I’ve tried to touch on the many different styles of music that I love. I’m excited for you to hear it!” ~ Tommy Castro
Tommy Castro – Guitar & Lead Vocals
Randy McDonald – Bass Guitar
Michael Emerson – Keyboards
Bowen Brown – Drums
On the song, Blues Prisoner, Tommy creates a slow blues with deep feeling that is extremely tasty on a song featuring a contribution from guest Kevin McKendree on piano.
BONNIE RAITT ~ from the album DIG IN DEEP
GYPSY IN ME
“I’m feeling pretty charged, and the band and I are at the top of our game. This period of my life is more exciting and vital than I was expecting, and for that I’m really grateful. At this point, I have a lot less to prove and hey, if you’re not going to “Dig In Deep” now, what’s the point?” ~ Bonnie Raitt
On Dig In Deep in 2016, Bonnie Raitt delivered a highly personal record of her own compositions plus a couple of well-chosen covers. She has always been adroitly gifted in interpreting songs in a way that truly makes them her own. A good example of this comes with the blues rock “Gypsy In Me.”
Bonnie utterly owns this swaggering song that was a co-write of the Nashville songwriting team of Gordon Kennedy and Wayne Kirkpatrick (the pair co-write “Change the World” with Tommy Sims).
The groove is robust with the rhythm section kicking hard as the organ play of the late Mike Finnigan rides superbly in accompaniment of Bonnie’s superlative world-wise vocal and soul-touching slide play. Bonnie’s gypsy soul has the feel of a long time friend, i.e. mighty comfortable.
Gypsy In Me – personnel
Vocals, Slide Guitar – Bonnie Raitt
Guitar, Backing Vocals – George Marinelli
Keyboards, Backing Vocals – Mike Finnigan
Bass – James “Hutch” Hutchinson
Drums – Ricky Fataar
Backing Vocals – Arnold McCuller
Well, that highway moon is calling
like some lover from some other land
Before the dust can settle,
I’ll kick it up and tear it down again
TINSLEY ELLIS ~ from the album ICE CREAM IN HELL
YOU LOVE’S LIKE HEROIN
“Alligator Records artist Tinsley Ellis closed his heralded Ice Cream In Hell album with a beautiful slow blues original titled, “Your Love’s Like Heroin.” In other words, deadly addictive. He channels the blues spirit of Peter Green, one of his sources of inspiration, extremely effectively. Ellis’s vocal is smooth as satin, and the notes from his guitar are cuttingly crystalized on this raw and extremely powerful somber song.” ~ RP /Vivascene
“That song, from the press we’re getting and airplay so far, is going to be the featured track. It just happened at the end of a session, lights down low and all the other stuff in the can. We were relaxed, and it had that relaxed sound. It was cut totally live, I don’t think there’s any overdubs on that song at all. There’s a beauty in that.” ~ Tinsley Ellis
“Probably my favorite was Peter Green while he was with Fleetwood Mac. He had a great style and was so tasteful. I’m just a fan of anybody that bends a guitar string in a bluesy kind of way. Albert King was the string bendingest and so, all of his disciples I’m into. I’m just a fan. I started out as a fan.” ~ Tinsley Ellis
Guitar, Vocals – Tinsley Ellis
Keys – Kevin McKendree
Bass – Steve Mackey
Drums, Percussion – Lynn Williams
CHARLIE MUSSELWHITE ~ from the album ACE OF HARPS
THE BLUES OVERTOOK ME
“Blues is real music. It’s from the heart. It’s about life. It’s about good times and bad times with your buddy or your girlfriend. It’s your comfort when you’re down. It’s all-purpose music. Blues will get you through life. It’s always there for you.” ~ Charlie Musselwhite
“It’s about the feeling, and about connecting with people. And blues, if it’s real blues, is loaded with feeling. And it ain’t about technique, either. It’s about truth, connecting to the truth and communicating with the people.” ~ Charlie Musselwhite
Charlie Musselwhite can rightfully lay claim to inheriting the mantle of many of the great harp players that came before him. His music is as dark as Mississippi mud, while being as uplifting as the blue skies of California. The blues harp player, singer, songwriter and guitarist has earned and deserves to be honored as a true master of the Blues.
The opening track on Musselwhite’s 1990 Ace Of Harps on Alligator Records was an original composition titled “The Blues Overtook Me”. It’s an autobiographical song that features his vintage world weary vocal to full advantage as he spins his tale of being a poor southern country boy with a deep affinity for the blues.
Vocals, Blues Harp – Charlie Musslewhite
Guitar – Andrew “Jr. Boy” Jones
Bass – Artis Joyce
Drums – Tommy Hill
The blues overtook me
When I was a little child
You know blues overtook me
When I was a little child
You know fast women and whiskey
Made this p
oor boy wild
JANIVA MAGNESS ~ from the album STRONGER FOR IT
I WONT CRY
“Blues is a lot more than my vocation. It’s been my salvation.” ~ Janiva Magness
“As I move forward, I’m more willing to put myself on the line. I’m less willing to burden myself with unnecessary problems, less willing to care what people say about me. As it turns out, the more vulnerable I allow myself to be, the more strength I draw from that.” ~ Janiva Magness
That vulnerability and inner strength was readily apparent on the original song, “I Won’t Cry,” written by Janiva Magness and her friend, and award-winning producer Dave Darling. Janiva refers to songwriting partner Dave Darling as being “crazy talented.”
“I’m really really, really blessed with that relationship, to have a songwriting foil and songwriting partner that is really very gifted as a songwriter himself, and also really gets me. There is a really deep and abiding connection in the best way possible between myself and Dave Darling. I think it is a holy place. And I trust him, because of that, because of the long term relationship. We’ve been friends for a very long time, since the 80’s. So I trust his judgment.” ~ Janiva Magness
The Magness/Darling team had a “Song of the Year Award” with “I Won’t Cry” during her accomplished three-release run on Alligator Records. Stronger For It also garnered the award for Contemporary Blues Recording of the year at the 2012 Blues Blast Music Awards. Janiva is a blues singer with tremendous crossover appeal. She always sings her heart out.
“Janiva Magness is an artist who possesses a powerfully intense voice that grabs a hold and then never again releases you. Over the course of her recording career she has garnered a great deal of critical acclaim, including numerous awards, in addition to substantial public support which spreads with each new endeavor she undertakes.” ~ RP / Vivascene
Vocals – Janiva Magness
Guitar – Dave Darling
Guitar – Zach Zunis
Hammond B3 – Arlan Oscar
Bass – Gary Davenport
Drums – Matt Tecu
Backing Vocals – Alfredo “Freyco” Ballesteros, Dave Darling, Ernie “Chico” Perez
The harder the words, the colder the night
The closer the hand, the sharper the knife
The tighter I hold on
The further you seem to fly
I get cut and I might bleed
But I won’t cry
DEB RYDER ~ from the album MEMPHIS MOONLIGHT
LOVE IS GONE
“My songwriting process is very eclectic. Songwriting for me is the most important part of my art. Sometimes I get a blues lick or a feel in my head that just will not go away, and I have to put lyrics to it. More often, I sit down and work the lyrics until I have a draft, and then the rhythm of the verse or the subject matter of the lyrics speak to the style of blues music I will arrange. Then, there are times that I feel strongly about something and need to speak out about: social injustice, intolerance or world/human issues. The eclecticism comes in because I never hold rigidly to any set process, and my blues both lyrically and musically is drawn from many styles and flavors, a sort of blues patchwork quilt.” ~ Deb Ryder – 2019
On 2021’s Memphis Moonlight, talented Blues singer and songstress Deb Ryder delivered a truly powerhouse album. Skillfully, and sympathetically produced by Tony Braunagel, it featured a few of Tony’s good friends and trusty running mates including Johnny Lee Schell, Joe Sublett, Mark Pender and the late, great Mike Finnigan.
I’m a huge fan of slow blues presented with passion and deep feeling. Special guest Ronnie Earl adds his mojo on the soul-dripping treasure “Love Is Gone.” The Hammond B-3 from Finnegan sets the bedrock for Schell and Earl to solo over, but it’s Ryder’s heartfelt vocal that makes this very heart-wrenching song so extremely memorable.
Love Is Gone – personnel
Vocals – Deb Ryder
Guitar – Johnny Lee Schell
Guitar – Ronnie Earl
Hammond Organ – Mike Finnigan
Bass – Travis Carlton
Drums – Tony Braunagel
HAMILTON LOOMIS ~ from the album BASICS
“On Basics, Hamilton Loomis has achieved a superior standard of excellence for himself. Although at times he does show small traces of his musical influences, he is most assuredly not a musical clone. In the process of his evolution and illumination he has taken his music closer towards his already apparent R&B leanings while still possessing a soul for the blues. He steps up and epitomizes the perfect purring hum of a well-tuned Mercedes Benz. His musical sophistication mirrors that carmaker’s motto of “Defined by style, powered by innovation.”
“One of my favorite songs on Basics comes with “Breaking Down,” a ballad of love gone wrong. Loomis projects a smooth soulfulness in his voice; a warm, mellifluous timbre that shows he is a most capable natural singer. It’s one of his most aching and passionately pleasing renderings when he sings “feels like breaking up, when love is breaking down.” Hamilton produces a laudable guitar solo that is measured and dulcet, and to a certain degree reminiscent of the great Robben Ford. The guitar works in tandem with a beneficial basic drum framework. Astute lyrics abound, such as “hard to see the future, when you’re dwelling in the past.” The background vocals add an appealing layering, entertainingly aligning to seal the deal.” ~ RP /Vivascene
HINDU LOVE GODS
CROSS CUT SAW
“Cross Cut Saw” was one of Albert King’s early chart hits for Stax Records in 1966. It was originally a downhome Delta blues recorded in 1941 by Tony Hollins and Tommy McClennan. In the Stax studio on November 2, 1966, drummer-producer Al Jackson reworked it again for Albert King, infusing it with a snappy Latin beat, and King’s version became a standard in the repertoire of countless blues bands.
Warren Zevon teamed up with the members of R.E.M., minus singer Michael Stipe, for an excellent one-off recording in 1990 calling themselves Hindu Love Gods. The set of cover songs was recorded during the sessions for Zevon’s Sentimental Hygiene, and was not originally intended for release.
Hindu Love Gods
Warren Zevon – vocals, guitar
Peter Buck – guitar
Mike Mills – bass guitar
Bill Berry – drums
TOMMY CASTRO and the PAINKILLERS ~ from the album STOMPIN’ GROUND
LIVE EVERY DAY
“Tommy has always been top of the heap among blues guitar players.” ~ Joe Bonamassa
“I heard each one of my friends’ contributions on these songs in my head as I was working on them. Happily, when I reached out and actually asked, everyone said yes.” ~ Tommy Castro (referring to the great guest artists on ‘Stompin’ Ground’)
For his 2017 release Stompin’ Ground on Alligator Records, one of the friends Tommy Castro reached out to for the recording session at Greaseland Studios was Chicago blues harp veteran Charlie Musselwhite for “Live Every Day.”
The Castro penned song is a country blues treat with Musselwhite providing a well seasoned vocal along with his fine harmonica play. The lyrics express nuggets of sage advice to value your friends, do good deeds, sell what you don’t need, and to live every day, “like it’s the last one of your life because one of these days you’re gonna be right.”
Vocals, Harmonica – Charlie Musselwhite
Guitar – Tommy Castro
Acoustic Guitar – Kid Andersen
Keyboards – Michael Emerson
Bass – Randy McDonald
Drums – Bowen Brown
SHAUN MURPHY ~ from the album FLAME STILL BURNS
LITTLE BY LITTLE
“Being in the music business has afforded me a tremendous outlet, for energy, writing, touching peoples’ hearts and hopefully leaving lives in a better place.
“The Blues is such an all-encompassing soul search, which I’m so glad to be a part of. I try to have each song I do be a set piece; not just working through the changes to get to the end…. each tune is a story, sometimes telling a moment in time, or a lifetime, and you need to serve it accordingly.” ~ Shaun Murphy
Shaun Murphy is a powerful singer who displays true passion on blues rockers or soul ballads, as well as being a top-notch songwriter. On Flame Still Burns, Murphy is staunchly supported by an accomplished group of seasoned musicians that make each song an aural feast.
Shaun and her group do a spirited rendition of “Little By Little,” a song written by Mel London which was first recorded by Junior Wells in 1960. It’s an ensemble tune with everyone contributing wonderfully to Shaun’s sassily soul-laden vocal.
Vocals — Shaun Murphy
Guitar — Kenne Cramer
Guitar — Tommy Stillwell
Hammond Organ — Eric Robert
Piano — Kevin McKendree
Bass — John Marcus
Drums — Tom DelRossi
You stay out all night till the break of day,
you stop up your ears to everything I say
Little by little, I’m losing you, I can see,
bit by bit, your love is drifting away from me
JEREMIAH JOHNSON ~ from the album HI-FI DRIVE BY
HOT DIGGITY DOG
Ruf Records Recording artist Jeremiah Johnson is a prolific songwriter, in addition to being an excellent guitarist and vocalist. It seems like his every new release is somehow better than the previous one; which were themselves “killer” and award nominated. He’s a hard-working artist that continually hones his craft on the road, and is constantly striving to improve. His past albums have him riding a hot streak that puts him in very esteemed company. His newest, ‘Hi-iFi Drive By’ has a fine variety of top-notch songs.
“The pursuit of music can be a hard road with no guarantees. Sometimes I get the feeling that I have been digging my own grave. All these years of sacrifice and hard work have definitely shaped the person I have become. I feel blessed to be able to do what I do and feel thankful for the amazing people who believe in my music.
“Thanks to Paul Niehaus IV and Tony Antonelli, I have a killer rhythm section.” ~ Jeremiah Johnson
“Hot Diggity Dog is my nod to the great JJ Cale with some swampy wah-wah lead guitar to go along with the classic country blues rhythm section. A bluesy, swampy, toe-tapping sing-along, with a heavyweight hook!” ~ Jeremiah Johnson
Lead Vocals, Guitar – Jeremiah Johnson
Rhythm Guitar – Tom Maloney
Bass, Wurlitzer – Paul Niehaus IV
Drums – Joe Meyer
Percussion – Tony Antonelli
Tenor Sax – Frank Bauer
Trumpet – Kasimu Taylor
Baritone Sax – Kevin O’Connor
Backing Vocals – Emily Wallace, Paul Niehaus IV
WALTER TROUT ~ from the album RIDE
WAITING FOR THE DAWN
Walter Trout just seems to be getting better with age. Each new release just seems to be as fine as the previous, if not even better, if such a feat is possible. His newest offering, Ride, continues that trend. Well written, well performed, and very well received by his legion of fans worldwide.
I could be mistaken, but I’m thinking that “Waiting For The Dawn” is the second single to top the blues chart from the new album. It’s a classic slow blues, done with passionate deep feeling.
Yet, as great as Mr. Trout is on record, it is his live performances that have earned praise from all over the globe, and solidified his legacy. As a member of John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers from 1984 to 1989, he earned Mayall’s praise. Mayall told Walter Trout that he was ‘the Peter Pan of the group.’ His example of leaving it all on the stage every night is a great example for his talented bandmates.
His present group is an extremely well seasoned outfit, and all are monsters on stage. Michael Leasure, a former Edgar Winter Band drummer, has been with Trout for about fourteen years. Both Swedish born bassist Johnny Griparic and keyboard man Teddy ‘Zig Zag’ Andreadis were members of Slash’s Snakepit, alongside the guitar shredder Slash. Griparic also had previously played with another guitar virtuoso; Richie Kotzen, while Andreadis has worked with varied acts like Guns N’ Roses, Bo Diddley, Alice Cooper, among others.
The group has been delighting fans on their recent European tour, and has four dates in California scheduled for mid-December. Don’t miss them!!
“For me, it’s not about fame and fortune or being the greatest drummer in the world. I just want to play music for a living, have a comfortable life and take care of my family. It would be wonderful to be recognized for my contribution to the music world, and I feel that can happen by sharing this wonderful gift that GOD has blessed me with.” ~ Michael Leasure