Best of the Blues 2019 – Roadhouse Bluesman of the Year – Brandon Santini

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 Santini at Black Eyed Sally’s in Hartford CT

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.

Hook, Line, and Sinker…Popa Chubby is the CATFISH!

I got a healthy helping of blackened catfish and POPA CHUBBY last night at Black Eyed Sally’s in Hartford!  Our second outing in as many nights at the renowned club and eatery in downtown Hartford, I got  to check an item off the bucket list while feasting on great food and the tunes of one of the most talented artists of our time.

For over 25 years, Popa Chubby has cranked out an unapologetic mix of blues and soul that rocks the rafters and, occasionally, punches you in the gut. He feeds on the audience as he plays and his banter between songs with the guests is adult in nature and no holds barred….they love him for it. I had been told that you don’t know Popa Chubby until you see him live….well I do now!  During his second set, he did a song that makes its way onto a lot of my DJ playlists, 69 Dollars.  Well, the recorded version is great but during a 20 minute rendition of it, he took the tune to a whole new level and produced beautiful tones on an electric guitar that I have NEVER heard before! It was something to watch and hear.

During three hours of music spread over two sets, the “Catfish”, as he called himself,  played tunes from his latest album, The Catfish, as well as several songs from his other albums. He also feasted on some tunes by Jimi Hendrix, Otis Redding (an impromptu request from the audience), and did a touching tribute to artists that passed on this year with a striking version of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah. His energy level was incredible though out..amazing given he literally just got off the plane from a two month tour of Europe..and has a packed booking schedule over the next couple of months.

My 24 music stream is entitled the Ben Vee Roadhouse blues.  After seeing Popa Chubby, I now know who truly rules the roadhouse…..long live the CATFISH!

Strike the Bell for the Delta Generators!

Last night, we got to see a bad ass rockin’ blues band called the Delta Generators at Black Eyed Sally’s in Hartford.  I just recently added their song “Strike the Bell” to my DJ set rotations and my 24 hour blues stream, so I was pretty excited at the opportunity to see them live…they did not disappoint!

They are a four piece band out of Boston featuring brothers Rick O’Neal on bass and backup vocals and Charlie O’Neal on guitars along with Jeff Armstrong on the skins and Brian Templeton serving as the new lead vocalist, harmonica player, and on acoustic guitar.

They have been nominated for and won several blues awards since their inception in 2008 and it is readily obvious why  once you get to hear them play. They cranked out tunes last night from the latest CD offering, Hipshakers and Heartbreakers, as well as from their previous three albums. Charlie is a gifted guitarist with an unassuming style but he speaks loudly through his guitar!  Watching him work the slide was pure joy. Jeff and Rick did a good job of laying down a steady groove and Brian was simply GREAT on vocals.  Brian joined the band this past August, after the release of the latest album, and he is a big man with a huge voice that could barely be contained in the small venue.  A cross between Howlin Wolf and Magic Sam, he has the range and grittiness that I associate with the best gut wrenching roadhouse blues singers.

During a break, I got to chat briefly with the brothers. Rick indicated that they are going to focus on building a larger base at clubs in the Northeastern United States over the coming months. Sooooo….strike the bell….pass the word in the Northeast……the Delta Generators are coming soon to a club near YOU!