Top Ten of 2013…Plus

Ordinarily I resist making Best Of lists, except mentally, in part because I don’t view music as a competition, and in part because my choices undergo frequent change. But when David Mac asked me to contribute a Top Ten to his Blues Junction site, I gave it my best shot. My choices and those of a number of other listeners were revealed here:

The ten CDs I listed as my favorites of the year:

1)    Magic Sam – Live at the Avant Garde, June 22, 1968 (Delmark)

2)    Holland K. Smith – Cobalt (Ellersoul)

3)    Ari Borger & Igor Prado -Lowdown Boogie (Chico Blues)

4)    Nikki Hill – Here’s Nikki Hill (Deep Fried Records)

5)    John Primer & Bob Corritore – Knockin’ Around These Blues (Delta Groove Productions)

6)    Trickbag – Trickbag with Friends Vol. 1 (Magic)

7)    4 Jacks – Deal With It (Ellersoul)

8)    Lou Pride – Ain’t No Love in This House (Severn)

9)    Barrelhouse Chuck & Kim Wilson – Driftin’ From Town to Town (The Sirens)

10)   Finis Tasby / Kid Andersen – Snap Your Fingers (Bluebeat Music)

In making the list, I initially wrote down the first group of CDs that came to mind. There were more than 10. Forced to make cuts, I reluctantly omitted the next group–but any of them could have been in my top 10. Here, then, are the rest of my favorites of 2013, in no particular order…

Lurrie Bell, Blues in My Soul (Delmark)

Laura Rain & the Caesars, Electrified (LRC)

The James Hunter Six, Minute By Minute (Fantasy)

Candye Kane with Laura Chavez, Coming Out Swingin’ (Vizztone)

Adrianna Marie & Her Groovecutters, Double Crossing Blues

Sugaray Rayford, Dangerous (Delta Groove Productions)

Birdlegg, Birdlegg (Dialtone)

Don Leady, Hillbilly Boogie Surfin’ Blues

Gene Taylor, Roadhouse Memories (Bluelight Records)

Jake LaBotz, Get Right (Charnel House)

Tinsley Ellis, Get It! (Heartfixer)

What a great year for blues, soul, and real rock ‘n’ roll music!


Preview: Holland K. Smith’s Cobalt


In the late ‘90s and early ‘00s, Holland K. Smith issued three stone killer albums of blues and roots rock that somehow didn’t catch fire in a big way. His long-awaited new CD, tentatively titled Cobalt and due from EllerSoul Records later this year, ought to remedy that.

Listeners who are hip to Smith’s previous work will find the honest, effective vocals and distinctive, toneful guitar work they expect. What’s new is the stylistic range of the Texas artist’s vision. In addition to his trademark bluesy sounds, Smith dips into swinging organ jazz on the title track and takes a hip, off-kilter approach to Latin sounds on “Olhos Verdes.” And, for those who haven’t had the good fortune to follow him in club appearances, the playlist’s strong emphasis on the various shades of soul music will be as surprising as it is welcome. Smith has penned a solid suite of songs that includes vintage-style R&B ballads, doo wop, country soul, and creamy Memphis soul á la Hi Records. Strong arrangements featuring organ and horns really bring these cuts to life.

World, get ready: the gritty, beautiful Cobalt should put Holland K. Smith’s name on the lips of everyone who takes American music seriously.

Digital files for review purposes were provided by the artist.