2019 Blues Music Awards Nominees Announced

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The Blues Foundation revealed the nominees for the 2019 Blues Music Awards, to be held 9 May in Memphis, Tennessee. As usual, the list contains both well-deserving artists and albums, and others that leave me aghast. Nevertheless, I encourage all to join the Foundation (memberships start as low as $25) and vote! Full details are here: 2019 BMA Nominees & Event Details.

The nominees:

Acoustic Album:

A Woman’s Soul, Rory Block

Black Cowboys, Dom Flemons

Global Griot, Eric Bibb

Journeys To The Heart Of The Blues, Joe Louis Walker/Bruce Katz/Giles Robson

Wish The World Away, Ben Rice                 

Acoustic Artist:

Ben Rice

Guy Davis

Hadden Sayers

Harrison Kennedy

Rory Block

 

Album of the Year:

America’s Child, Shemekia Copeland

The High Cost Of Low Living, The Nick Moss Band Featuring Dennis Gruenling

Journeys To The Heart Of The Blues, Joe Louis Walker/Bruce Katz/Giles Robson

Rough Cut, Curtis Salgado and Alan Hager

Why Did You have To Go, Anthony Geraci

 

B.B. King Entertainer:

Beth Hart

Bobby Rush

Lil’ Ed Williams

Michael Ledbetter

Sugaray Rayford

 

Band of the Year:

Anthony Geraci & The Boston Blues All-Stars

Larkin Poe

Lil’ Ed & the Blues Imperials

Nick Moss Band

Welch-Ledbetter Connection

 

Best Emerging Artist Album:

Burn Me Alive, Heather Newman

Free, Amanda Fish

Heartland And Soul, Kevin Burt

Tough As Love, Lindsay Beaver

Wish The World Away, Ben Rice

 

Blues Rock Album:

The Big Bad Blues, Billy F Gibbons
High Desert Heat
, Too Slim and the Taildraggers

Live At The ’62 Center, Albert Cummings

Poor Until Payday, The Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band

Winning Hand, Tinsley Ellis

 

Blues Rock Artist:

Billy F Gibbons

Eric Gales

J.P. Soars

Kenny Wayne Shepherd

Tinsley Ellis

 

Contemporary Blues Album:

America’s Child, Shemekia Copeland

Belle Of The West, Samantha Fish

Chicago Plays The Stones, The Living History Band

Hold On, Kirk Fletcher

Wild Again, The Proven Ones

 

Contemporary Blues Female Artist:

Beth Hart

Danielle Nicole

Samantha Fish

Shemekia Copeland

Vanessa Collier

 

Contemporary Blues Male Artist:

Kenny Neal

Rick Estrin

Ronnie Baker Brooks

Selwyn Birchwood

Toronzo Cannon

 

Instrumentalist – Bass:

Danielle Nicole

Michael “Mudcat” Ward

Patrick Rynn

Scot Sutherland

Willie J. Campbell

 

Instrumentalist – Drums:

Cedric Burnside

Jimi Bott

June Core

Tom Hambridge

Tony Braunagel

 

Instrumentalist – Guitar:

Anson Funderburgh

Christoffer “Kid” Andersen

Laura Chavez

Monster Mike Welch

Ronnie Earl

 

Instrumentalist – Harmonica:

Billy Branch

Bob Corritore

Dennis Gruenling

Kim Wilson

Mark Hummel

 

Instrumentalist – Horn:

Doug James

Jimmy Carpenter

Kaz Kazzanof

Mindi Abair

Nancy Wright

Vanessa Collier

 

Pinetop Perkins Piano Player (Instrumentalist – Piano):

Anthony Geraci

Bruce Katz

Jim Pugh

Marcia Ball

Mike Finnigan

 

Instrumentalist – Vocals:

Beth Hart

Danielle Nicole

Janiva Magness

Michael Ledbetter

Shemekia Copeland

 

Song of the Year:

“Ain’t Got Time For Hate,” written by John Hahn and Will Kimbrough

“Angelina, Angelina,” written by Anthony Geraci

“Cognac,” written by Buddy Guy, Tom Hambridge, Richard Fleming

“No Mercy In This Land,” written by Ben Harper

“The Ice Queen,” written by Sue Foley

 

Soul Blues Album:

Back In Business, Frank Bey

Every Soul’s A Star, Dave Keller

I’m Still Around, Johnny Rawls

Love Makes A Woman, The Knickerbocker All-Stars

Reckoning, Billy Price

 

Soul Blues Female Artist:

Annika Chambers

Barbara Blue

Candi Staton

Thornetta Davis

Whitney Shay

 

Soul Blues Male Artist:

Frank Bey

Johnny Rawls

Sugaray Rayford

Wee Willie Walker

William Bell

 

Traditional Blues Album:

The Blues Is Alive And Well, Buddy Guy

The High Cost of Low Living, Nick Moss Band Featuring Dennis Gruenling

The Luckiest Man, Ronnie Earl & The Broadcasters

Tribute to Carey Bell, Lurrie Bell & the Bell Dynasty

Why Did You Have To Go, Anthony Geraci

 

Koko Taylor Award (Traditional Blues Female Artist):

Fiona Boyes

Lindsay Beaver

Ruthie Foster

Sue Foley

Trudy Lynn

 

Traditional Blues Male Artist:

Anthony Geraci

Cedric Burnside

James Harman

Lurrie Bell

Nick Moss

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Guy King: Solo and Organ Trio Recordings

By Myself I Am Who I Am And It Is What It Is

GUY KING

By Myself

I Am Who I Am And It Is What It Is

IBF Records, 2012

guyking.net

Guy King established his credentials in the six years he spent as bandleader for Chicago legend Willie Kent, during which his tough but nuanced lead guitar playing was a major part of The Gents’ hard-edged blues sound. Following Kent’s death in 2006, King embarked upon a solo career. His debut album Livin’ It, on which a new, tightly arranged style, inflected with smooth, jazz-shaded R&B, began to emerge, was nominated for a Blues Music Award; and the guitarist, a native of Israel, seemed to be everywhere at once, appearing nationally and internationally with his blues band, playing solo shows, and fronting an organ trio around Chicago. Then he seemingly fell off the map. As it turns out, King has been spending most of his time abroad, mainly performing in Israel and Brazil. Given that he is preparing to return to the United States for a series of dates scheduled around the 2014 Chicago Blues Festival, now seems a good time to take stock of the two excellent albums King quietly released at the end of summer 2012.

Willie Kent’s gritty electric blues were one thing; the uptown Livin’ It was quite another. What King does on By Myself is completely unexpected. Powerful interpretations of songs by pre-war blues icon Robert Johnson make up nearly half of the 15-song set. King shows a surprising affinity for the form, with a mastery of Johnson’s technique and chords, a snappy, percussive attack that brings a full and expressive sound to the solo guitar, and vocals that shift from full to falsetto, always sounding natural and often impassioned, as when his voice breaks in “Hellhound On My Trail,” where King evokes hopeless resignation in the face of haunting mystery. At the other end of the emotional register is the relatively plainspoken “Steady Rollin’ Man,” also among the strongest performances here. King’s singing takes on a notable resonance and vibrato, appropriately enough, on “Can’t Be Satisfied,” one of two Muddy Waters numbers, and thumps fleet runs on the bass strings of his guitar behind Lightnin’ Hopkins’s “Katie Mae,” which closes this portion of the program.

Don’t despair if Mississippi and Texas blues are not your thing. Five songs at the end of the CD come from an entirely different direction. Still solo, still built on King’s acoustic guitar and evocative singing, they touch on more contemporary and more cosmopolitan musical styles. “I Am Who I Am And It Is What It Is” is a swinging, soulful, upbeat number with a jazzy flair. Next King reprises the sophisticated ballad “Alone In The City,” from Livin’ It. Stripped of its electric instruments and horns, it sounds more like Percy Mayfield or even Charles Brown at his gloomiest–with Ray Charles somewhere at the root of both versions. King overdubs subtle percussion on the last few songs, all in the bossa nova style, beginning with his reading of the jazz standard “Nature Boy,” continuing through his lively cover of Joao Gilberto’s “Acapulco,” and ending with a smoky “Besame Mucho.” This is music for lovers, indeed.

Recorded with Mike Schlick (drums) and Ben Paterson (organ), the two-CD set I Am Who I Am And It Is What It Is offers a cool cruise through jazz and standards, blues and ballads, soul and R&B, and pop. The program begins with a band version of the title track before moving to Charlie Parker’s “Yardbird Suite.” King then shifts from bop to the birth of soul, with an emotional “Drown In My Own Tears.” Next up is a light “Sweet Lorraine,” a rousing “Mojo,” then back to jazz with Stanley Turrentine’s bluesy “Sugar,” and on to Percy Mayfield’s “Please Send Me Someone To Love” and a “Going To Chicago” much toned down from any of the often-heard Joe Williams versions. King’s interest in Brazil comes out in Jobim’s uptempo “Agua De Beber.” Bobby Hebb’s pop smash “Sunny” yields to another Ray Charles ballad before King delivers a wondrous “Tear It Down,” capturing not only Wes Montgomery’s signature octaves but his excitement and effortless swing. Paterson is on fire here, too, and Schlick ably covers the drum breaks.

The second disc unfolds along the same lines, covering standards romantic (“You’ve Changed,” “Moonlight In Vermont”) and frivolous (“The Frim Fram Sauce”); jazz (“Green Dolphin Street” and workouts on McGriff’s “Vicky” and Burrell’s “Kenny’s Sound”); lush ballads from Billie Holiday (“God Bless The Child”) and Stevie Wonder (“Lately”); the breezy Brazilian “Brigas Nunca Mais”; blues (a pitiful “All Over Again,” from B.B. King’s catalog) and R&B (from Ray Charles once more, in a splendid “Roll With My Baby”). As is often the case with organ trios, some of the best material comes from unlikely places. King nods to the soul jazz tradition with sweet pop and elegant soul selections (“Isn’t She Lovely” and “Me And Mrs. Jones”), and surprises with the country weeper “Crying Time,” perhaps learned from Buck Owens, or remembered from bluesman Phillip Walker’s Playboy Records LP. In either case, it is devastating. Overall, the division between instrumentals and vocal numbers is about even, the latter showing King’s pleasant, expressive range, and on virtually every track, King and Paterson trade solos that, even when speaking the language of jazz, retain bluesy phrasing and tonalities. The group has a real feeling for the entire range of styles on What It Is, an absolutely lovely album on many levels.

King’s achievement is all the more impressive when one considers that both albums were recorded virtually off-the-cuff. Inspired after an evening’s gig, King cut the solo album in a single session, using an acoustic guitar belonging to the studio. In much the same way, the 30 songs on the organ trio record were laid down, in much less than 24 hours, during the course of an all-nighter, with a brief follow-up later in the afternoon. One might reasonably wonder if there is anything he can’t do, and where he will take us next. King has in fact been writing and recording new material, with an ear sensibly tilted toward producing great music, without much concern for genre restrictions. The touchstone artists whose work inspired the two works considered here–Muddy Waters, Antonio Carlos Jobim, Stevie Wonder, Nat “King” Cole, and Ray Charles in particular–seem likely to play a continuing role in King’s musical development. That is an evolution I don’t want to miss. In taking the varied music he loves and recasting it in new combinations, Guy King is going about his art the right way. Musicians with genuinely big ears are rare, and talent like King’s is rarer still.

TOM HYSLOP

I bought these CDs from the artist’s Web site.