During a stellar year of new recordings by blues artists, I have kept returning to songs off two 2019 albums: The Longshot and Tennessee Redemption. Both these great recordings (one is a solo album while the other is a group recording) feature the voice and harmonica playing of Brandon Santini. He is my 2019 Roadhouse Bluesman of the Year!
Brandon is a 37 year old resident of Memphis who has plied his trade on Beale Street for almost 20 years. He made the move to Memphis at the age of 19 and over the ensuing years, he refined his harmonica playing to the point where he was nominated for Blues Harmonica Player of the Year by the prestigious Blues Foundation in 2014. And this past October, he received the Blues Blast Magazine 2019 award for The Longshot as Best Contemporary Blues album of the Year.
Brandon’s years in the Memphis clubs taught him the golden rule for performing music which is in part: Be Kind to Musicians. It is one that I practice also. I do not write bad reviews of artists; if I don’t enjoy a recording I simply don’t write about it. It is a practice that I wish some fellow DJs and bloggers, as well “mainstream” critics, would follow also.
His Beale street years also have taught him that you have to be an entertainer, not just a singer or musician. Music is in large part an experience of feelings. How does the song make you feel? Does the singer move you emotionally? Brandon delivers on both counts. He has a deep gravely voice reminiscent of Dr. John and his song writing is engaging and evocative. Take a listen to Drive You Off My Mind from The Longshot and you will see what I mean.
For his second recording of the year, he teamed with long time friend and fellow Beale Streeter, Jeff Jensen (guitar & vocals), and formed the group Tennessee Redemption. They released their self titled debut album this past September. The album is a fusion of southern style blues, Americana, and Memphis R&B and is absolutely delightful. Give See About Me and Back to Tennessee a listen. I know you will enjoy them!!
Brandon Santini represents the next generation of blues men and women who are coming into their own. He has paid his blues dues with hundreds of performances in small clubs in Memphis and elsewhere around the country. And he has earned and deserves the accolades that are now beginning to flow in. Receiving my 2019 Roadhouse Bluesman of the Year award is no big thing but I hope he, as I often do on special occasions (well hell…any event really) , lights a cigar after one of his gigs and smiles. I’ll be lighting one after finishing this article….Here’s to you Brandon for having a great year in 2019 and for the many more that are sure to come!
Ben Vee is an internet DJ and writer from New Orleans that now lives in Connecticut with his wife Annette. He started spinning records back in the 1970’s and has been writing about the roadhouse blues since 2011. He does two roadhouse blues shows each week on http://www.bluesmusicfan.com and he writes about the blues when the urge strikes on http://www.benveeblues.com.