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.

Ben Vee’s Roadhouse Blues Bin for Sept 19, 2018

Well…it’s the last day of summer for 2018….where the heck has the year gone??  Here are some more albums and tunes that made their way onto my DJ sets playlists regularly over the last several months……………….

Casey James –  Strip It Down (2017)

Casey James

Great young talent from Texas, Casey plays a fine guitar and sounds a bit like Kenny Wayne Shepherd.  This album has a number of roadhouse tunes on it including a duet with Delbert McClinton entitled Bullet Proof.  Also enjoyed All I Need, I Got to Go, Killin’ Myself, and Makin’ Up.

Joe Goldmark – Blue Steel (Lo-Ball Records 2018)

joe goldmark

A California pedal steel guitar player crankin out some blues…..you gotta listen to this!  The album is largely instrumental with guest vocalists on a number of cuts. Particularly liked Beautician Blues and The Wobble featuring Glenn Walters on vocals. I got a great response to these by my listeners! The CD also includes a number of country tunes including an instrumental Warm Rain that is pretty sweet!  Joe also is a partner in five San Francisco area pizzerias called “Escape from New York Pizza“.  Pizza and some pedal steel blues….not a bad combination at all!!!!

Mud Morganfield – They Call Me Mud (Severn Records 2018)

Mud Morganfield

A son of the great Muddy Waters, Mud is a fantastic blues man in his own right. On his fourth album, he serves up a blues buffet that spans the Chicago blues, funk, r&b, and a bit of jazz. Loved Oh Yeah, the title track They Call Me Mud, Walkin’ Cane, and a duet with his daughter Lashunda entitled Who Loves You. A number of great artists also helped out on the album including Billy Branch, Studebaker John, Mike Wheeler, and Billy Flynn.  Muddy would have loved a snifter of cognac and a fine cigar while listenin’ to his son carry on the blues tradition….I know I did!

Peter Ward – Blues on My Shoulders (Gandy Dancer Records 2017)

Peter Ward

Several times over this past summer I have started my sets with the instrumental On the Ropes from Peter’s debut album. It is a great upbeat tune; perfect to get a roadhouse blues set goin’!  Peter has a real pedigree in the blues having played with Jimmy Rogers, Buddy Guy, Otis Rush, Junior Wells, and toured with the members of the Muddy Water’s inspired Legendary Blues Band and Roomful of Blues.  He wrote all but one of the thirteen tunes on the album and gets some stellar musical help from Ronnie Earl, Anthony Geraci, and Sugar Ray Norcia on a number of the cuts.  She Took It All and What Can I Do To You? are two more of my favorites on the recording.

Ronnie Earl & the Broadcasters – The Luckiest Man (Stony Plain 2017)

Ronnie Earl

This past May, Ronnie won his 4th blues award from the prestigious Blues Foundation as Guitar Instrumentalist of the year further cementing his position as one of the great blues men of his generation. I have followed his career for a number of years and he just continues to grow and excel at playin’ the blues.  And he is indeed a lucky man to have such a gifted band with Paul Kochanski (bass), David Limina (piano & organ), Diane Blue (vocals), and Forrest Padgett (drums) to back him up. I absolutely loved Ain’t That Lovin’ You and really enjoyed You Don’t Know What Love Is, and Heartbreak (It’s Hurtin’ Me).    There are also several tasty instrumentals including Southside Stomp, Blues for Magic Sam, and the simply badass roadhouse tune Howlin’ Blues.

 

Hey…..and don’t forget to tune in every Thursday from 3 to 5 pm EST as I play these and other great contemporary roadhouse blues at Blues Music Fan Radio . You can also listen to the roadhouse blues 24 hours a day on my stream at Ben Vee Roadhouse Blues .