Monday, December 22, 2014
1. Gary Clark Jr. Live -- The much-praised guitarist finally delivers on the hype with this terrific 2-CD collection of live performances.
2. Joe Bonamassa, Different Shades of Blue -- Joe has finally learned that one note is sufficient when 10 might have been his original choice. This is the work of a mature musician who has used his popularity to refine his art.
3. Jack Bruce, Cities of the Heart -- The late bassist/vocalist goes out in style with this 2-CD live collection. The highlight is the set of Cream covers with Gary Moore (who also died this year) excelling on guitar.
4. Johnny Rawls/Otis Clay, Soul Brothers -- In collaborating with the great gospel/R&B singer Otis Clay, bluesman Johnny Rawls comes up with a classic.
5. Matt Schofield, Far As I Can See -- The brilliant blues-jazz guitarist steps out of his "comfort zone" with the amazing, Hendrix-influenced "Red Dragon"; one of the best songs of this -- or any -- year.
6. Johnny Winter, Step Back -- The Texas blues patriarch may not have the fire of youth, but as with mentor Muddy Waters his maturity makes for some fine listening and the guest stars don't get in the way on his final outing.
7. Lady Bianca, Real People Music -- Somehow international fame has eluded this gifted artist. One can only hope this fine, self-produced release will correct that oversight.
8. Mannish Boys, Wrapped Up & Ready -- Some of the finest blues performers working today just keep putting out one great record after another.
9. Mississippi Heat, Warning Shot -- Few blues bands are as reliable as this Chicago-based outfit. From the home of the blues comes more of the real thang.
10. Billy Branch and the Sons of the Blues, Blues Shock -- One of the best harmonica player around -- and a frequent guest on the recordings of others -- shows he hasn't lost the touch that made him a break-out artist in the late '70s.