Best of the Blues 2019 – Five Best Roadhouse Blues Debut Albums of the Year

During the course of 2019, I was thrilled at the number of new artists that released debut albums. It bodes well for the future of the roadhouse blues in the next decade. My selections for the five best debut roadhouse blues artists of 2019 are (in alphabetical order) Christone “Kingfinsh” Ingram, Tennessee Redemption, The Allman Betts Band, The Weary Times, and Tiffany Pollack & Eric Johanson.

Christone “Kingfish” IngramKingfish ( 2019 Alligator Records)

Christone “Kingfish” Ingram hails from the heart of the delta blues in Clarkesdale Mississippi. This rising blues prodigy is only twenty and has already captured the attention of blues lovers with the release of his debut album KINGFISH. Released on the prestigious blues label, Alligator Records, the album shot to the top of the blues charts this past May and has garnered him attention around the blues world.

He started out playing and singing gospel in church and by the time he was fifteen performed at the White House for Michelle Obama as part the Clarksdale Delta Museum Band. In 2017, he was a guest artist on Eric Gales’ Middle of the Road album. Eventually he caught the attention of the living blues legend Buddy Guy, blues maestro Keb’ Mo’, and Grammy award winning artist and producer Tom Hambridge. With the touch of a master, Tom brings out the best in Christone on the debut album.

KINGFISH is a traditional blues album chocked full of great tunes. Fresh Out features the mastery of Buddy Guy, Hard Times is some fine delta acoustic blues, and Listen is a great duet with Keb’ Mo’. Few debut albums feature such a strong cast of world class supporting artists. It is a tribute to Christone’s talent and a beacon pointing to a very bright future.

Tennessee RedemptionTennessee Redemption (2019 Endless Blues Records)

Brandon Santini, my 2019 Roadhouse Bluesman of the Year, received the award in part for the release of this self titled album TENNESSEE REDEMPTION. After years of honing their craft on Beale Street in Memphis (sometimes together sometimes apart), Brandon (lead vocals, harmonica) teamed with long time friend Jeff Jensen (lead vocals, guitar) and incorporated Timo Arthur (guitar, bass), Bill Ruffino (bass, vocals), and David Green (drums, vocals) to form this solid and tight band.

The album includes eight original songs plus a cover of the Tom Waits tune, Come On Up to the House and a great rendition of Little Walter’s Watch Yourself. Back To Tennessee is a fabulous jam tune steeped in the southern sound that emanated out of Macon Georgia back in the 1970’s and features some great guitar playing by Jeff and Timo. Glad To Be recounts Brandon and Jeff’s time playing on Beale Street and collecting dreams that have been realized with release of this recording. Given my love for the beaches, people, food, and tequila found in the small towns of our southern neighbor, it should be no surprise that I also enjoyed I’m Going To Mexico. See About Me, Souls In the Water, and the funky We Got A Thing Going On are also highly recommended.

Tennessee Redemption is an ideal example of the roadhouse blues with its roots in the blues but also reflecting the influences of gospel, southern rock, classic R&B, and soul. I look forward to seeing how they develop and mature their sound as the years go by.

The Allman Betts Band – Down to the River (2019 BMG Rights Management LLC)

Few groups in recent years have debuted an album to such popular and critical acclaim as THE ALLMAN BETTS BAND. The core of the band is three sons of the Allman Brothers Band (ABB): Devon Allman, Duane Betts, and Barry Oakley Jr.. Additionally Johnny Stachela provides some stellar slide guitar playing along with one of my favorite Hammond B3 organ players, John Ginty. The band also features percussionist R. Scott Bryan and drummer John Lum. And as if that wasn’t enough, former ABB keyboard player Chuck Leavall (currently with The Rolling Stones) and the Hammond B3 player for the Greg Allman Band, Peter Levin, make guest appearances on the recording.

Down to the River was recorded at the legendary Muscle Shoals Sound Studio in Alabama and features nine songs. My favorite on the album is a tune steeped in the legacy of ABB, Shinin’. All Night is a great showcase for Devon’s vocal talent and Melodies Are Memories is reminiscent of The Band and the Grateful Dead at their best and features Duane on vocals. Long Gone is a terrific ballad and the title cut, Down To The River, is some sweet easy classic R&B. Autumn Breeze is a song I can’t wait to see them jam to in concert. And Good Ol’ Days is a beautiful reminder that we need to embrace and live the “good ol’ days” now.

Since the album was released last summer, the Allman Betts Band has been on an ambitious tour of the United States and Europe. It is my understanding that the crowds have been huge and the audience response phenomenal. They are definitely on my bucket list of groups to see in 2020.

The Weary Times – The Weary Times (2019 Way Down Records)

THE WEARY TIMES, a band out of Boise Idaho, first caught my ear this past summer with Why Are You So Lonely. It’s a sad song that captures the feel of early sixties doo wap enhanced by the gravely voice of Ryan Curtis and the sparse and delightful guitar playing of Mike Simon. The tune, Piece of Mind, also grabbed me with the keyboard playing of Mike Swain and is a throwback to the very best that Eric Burdon & the Animals kicked out back in the day. Nick Archibald on bass and Ben Wieland on drums complete this creative quintet of musicians that proudly claim the blues and early rock’n’roll as the basis for their sound.

Nostalgic blues rock is the best way that I can describe The Weary Times debut album overall. Mixing in reverb and fuzz to give several songs an energetic garage band feel just adds icing to the cake. Ain’t Done Drinking and Anymore rock the blues, Best For You is another Eric Burdon & the Animals style tune, I Don’t Know Why and Hard Times are great sixties psychedelia, and Give And Take is a slow insightful song about aging after a hard lived youth.

I listened to literally hundreds of new albums during 2019 and very few were as unique and imaginative as an overall recording as this one. They have captured the essence of the early and mid 1960’s music sound (which was always based on the blues) and reintroduced it, after a fifty year lapse, with contemporary themes. It is music nostalgia for modern times.

After playing small clubs and venues across the Pacific Northwest the past couple of years, the Weary Times have earned the opportunity with this debut recording to expand their fan base and turn the rest of the roadhouse blues world on to their music. I just hope they are ready for the wild ride!!

Tiffany Pollack & Eric Johanson – Blues In My Blood (2019 NOLA Blue Records)

The best debut album by a duet couple since Joe Bonamassa and Beth Hart back in 2011, Blues In My Blood is a solid recording by New Orleans based Tiffany Pollack and Eric Johanson. Tiffany comes to the blues from her roots in jazz music and Eric is an up and coming bluesman who has caught the attention of non other than Tab Benoit!

They combined their writing talents to pen seven of the 11 songs on the recording. My absolute favorite is the title cut, Blues in My Blood. It starts with a gospel inspired delta feel and then builds in intensity with some great guitar work by Eric and a powerful vocal delivery by Tiffany. Another favorite is Diamonds on the Crown with great harmonies and thoughtful social commentary. Eric has a voice similar to another great blues man from Louisiana, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, and his guitar style is stellar on the song. Tiffany takes on the Nina Simone classic Do I Move You? and aces it with a sultry jazzy performance. Eric takes the vocal lead on Get Lost With Me, a blues ballad, and again wowed me with his guitar.

I also enjoyed the roots blues tune Memories to Forget as well as a knockout performance by Tiffany of the Joni Mitchell song, River, which I consider a great Christmas time tune. I played it several times during my DJ sets this past season and the response was tremendous!

Musicians that contributed their talents to the recording include Brentt Arcement (drums), Phil Wang (bass), John Gros (keyboards), producer Jack Miele (bass, bass guitar, and percussions), Sean Carey (backing vocals) and a guest appearance by the great Jumpin’ Johnny Sansone as well as the 504 Horns.

My only disappointment is that I have seen no evidence since the release of the album last spring that they have toured to support the recording. Both have returned to their solo careers. Tiffany & Co are playing jazz venues in New Orleans and Eric is touring with Tab Benoit who produced his 2017 highly acclaimed album, Burn It Down. I hear that Tab is playing drums for Eric during his part of the show; I’d pay to see that!!

My hope is that, as Joe and Beth have done, they will get back together from time to time and lay down some more tracks…..they both have blues in their blood!


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.

Gettin Close to Christmas Roadhouse Blues on BMFR

Tune in today on http://www.bluesmusicfan.com for my Gettin’ Close To Christmas Roadhouse Blues Nooner at High Noon EST! I’ll have some new tunes by Lucky Peterson, Diane Blue, Sugaray Rayford as well as some classics by Luther Allison, Freddie King, and Johnny Copeland.

The intended playlist is below:

ARTISTTITLE
Arlen RothTuff Tele
Luther AllisonGive Me Back My Wig
Travellin’ Blue KingsNinety Minutes
Mindi Abiar And The BoneshakersAll I Got For Christmas Is The Blues
Ash GrunwaldTrouble’s Door (feat Mahalia Barnes & Kim Wilson)
Dan Bubien & The Delta StrutsMemphis Sky
Freddie KingThe Danger Zone
Buddy GuyHome For Christmas
Sugaray RayfordSomebody Save Me
Honey HoundsGirl Like That
Dynamite Blues BandI Still Don’t Know
Albert CollinsDon’t Mistake Kindness For Weakness
Ana PopovicSoulful Dress
Coco MontoyaBluesman’s Christmas
Johnny CopelandEverybody Wants A Piece Of Me
Annika ChambersTwo Bit Texas Town
Albert KingAngel Of Mercy
Diane BlueThat’s a Pretty Good Love
Ben Racine BandThe Pleasure’s All Mine (Live)
B.B. KingBack Door Santa
Lucky PetersonThe Blues Is Driving Me
Big Daddy WilsonCrazy World
Zack Walther BandPayin’ For It Now
Angel ForrestRoll On Down
Dave P. MooreFort Necessity
HeavyDrunkPick You Up Along The Way
Delta MoonChristmas Time In New Orleans

Tuesday Roadhouse Nooner on BMFR at 12 pm EST

I am back from vacation and ready to roll out some badass roadhouse blues for you on http://www.bluesmusicfan.com at High Noon EST. Have a mix of new contemporary tunes by Mike Duke, Zack Walther, and the Tedeschi Trucks Band as well as some classics from the archive.

Here is the intended playlist that I post with the hope that if you like the some of the tunes that you will go to your favorite music shop and buy them! Help the blues to thrive in 2019!

ARTISTTITLE
William ClarkeHittin’ Heavy
Etta JamesDown Home Blues
John HammondBarrelhouse Woman Blues
Little FeatA Apolitical Blues
Steve MarrinerHow In The Devil
The Michael Mills BandMy New Woman
Blues BrothersShotgun Blues
Dr. FeelgoodCheque Book
Bo DiddleyCan I Walk You Home
Little WalterYou’re So Fine
Quique Gomez and His VipersI´m Gonna Keep What I Got
Tedeschi Trucks BandHigh and Mighty
The Nick Moss Band with Michael LedbetterHard Luck Woman
Zack Walther BandHold On, I’m Coming
The Mike Duke ProjectI Can’t Let You Go (ft Elvin Bishop)
Marie MarxAm I Enough
Candye Kane & Laura ChavezI’ve Got To Ride
Marcia BallLouella
North Mississippi AllstarsLonesome in My Home
Martin HarleyRoll With The Punches
ZZ TopMushmouth Shoutin’
Johnny WinterIt’s My Own Fault (2004 Digital Remaster)
Paul RodgersMuddy Water Blues (live)
Buddy GuyLove Her with a Feeling (feat. Junior Wells)
Miss Bix and The Blues FixVoodoo Man
Heather NewmanHowling For Love

Ben’s Thursday Roadhouse Blues – 3 pm EST

The 1950’s were a magical time for the blues.  The electric guitar was taking the world by storm and blues artists were its vanguard.  It was also a time when the blues and rock & roll were virtually indistinguishable.  Today’s set celebrates the songs and sounds of the fifties as I play both brand new and classic upbeat roadhouse blues from that era on http://www.bluesmusicfan.com. Tune in at 3 pm EST!!

Below is the intended playlist.

ARTIST TITLE
Elmore James Blacksnake Blues
Arlen Roth White Lightning (ft Steve Cropper)
Peter Ward A Westerly Sunday Night (ft Sugar Ray Norcia)
Mark Wenner’s Blues Warriors King Bee
Peter Ward Train to Key Biscayne (ft Johnny Nicholas)
Howlin’ Wolf Back Door Man
Joe Bonamassa I Can’t Be Satisfied (Live)
Mary Lane Leave That Wine Alone
Harpdog Brown Thinkin’ and Drinkin’
Brandon Santini Drive You Off My Mind
Ronnie Earl And The Broadcasters It Takes Time
Elmore James Fine Line Mama
Crystal Shawanda Hound Dog
Mark Wenner’s Blues Warriors Hello Josephine
Buddy Guy Nine Below Zero
Brian Holden Smokin’ Hot
Peter Ward Coffee Song (ft Michelle Willson)
Big Joe Turner Shake, Rattle & Roll
Hound Dog Taylor Give Me Back My Wig
Chuck Berry House Of Blue Lights
Elvis Presley Ain’t That Loving You Baby
Omar Kent Dykes & Jimmie Vaughan Baby What You Want Me To Do/Bright Lights Big City
James Cotton Honest I Do
Luther Allison Parking Lot
The Derek Trucks Band Good Morning Little Schoolgirl
Joe Bonamassa Shake for Me (Live)
The Rides Talk to Me Baby
Sonny Boy Williamson Help Me
Eugene Hideaway Bridges I Can’t Stop Loving You Baby
Mark Wenner’s Blues Warriors Rock a While
Cyndi Lauper Crossroads (Feat. Johnny Lang)
Dave Alvin & Phil Alvin Sit Down, Baby

Mary Lane – Lady Regent of the Chicago Blues

She is 83 years young and along with Buddy Guy, who has called her “the real deal”, they are the reigning regents of the Chicago Blues.  And it does not get better than Mary Lane’s new album Travelin’ Woman.

Mary Lane Travelin Woman

The personification of the “great migration” of African Americans from the cotton fields of the American south to the city of Chicago both before and after World War II, Mary sings the blues the way only someone that has endured the degradation and hard times of segregation, and still maintained their pride and spirit, can.  Heartfelt and upbeat, the 10 songs on this album are a testament to the power of song sung by a voice of greatness.

The title cut, Travelin’ Woman, is a reminisce about her journey from Arkansas to the blues stages of Chicago that she shared with B.B. King, A.C. Reed, Elmore James, Magic Sam, Junior Wells, and Howlin’ Wolf. Blues Give Me a Feeling is a great tune about her love affair with the American music genre. Some People Say I’m Crazy, Bad Luck and Trouble, Ain’t Gonna Cry No More, Ain’t Nobody Else,  and Rain in My Heart are all bad ass Chicago blues. And amidst all these great songs, Leave That Wine Alone, is my hands down favorite.

Mary Lane

Produced by Jim Tullio, who also co-wrote most of the songs on the album, the CD features guest appearances by Billy Branch, Corky Siegel, the late Eddie Shaw, Indiara Sfair, Gene (Daddy G) Barge, Colin Linden, and Dave Specter.  This is only her second album, the first was done twenty years ago or so, but she has been a fixture on blues stages all over Chicago for decades. Man…the rest of us have missed it until NOW!

Also, filmmaker Jesseca Ynez Simmons is putting the finishing touches on a documentary about Mary’s life entitled I Can Only Be Mary Lane.  I am looking forward to its release and being able to see it!

Folks, you absolutely HAVE to listen to this slice of blues greatness! Mary Lane has sowed the blues for over sixty years…..with Travelin’ Woman she finally reaps the recognition and fame that she has long deserved.  Keep crankin’ out the blues Mary…we are all now your loyal subjects!

Women of the Blues Records 2018

Telecastin’ the night away on Arlen Roth’s Tele Masters

Released in the early 1950’s, the Fender Telecaster was the first commercially successful solid body guitar and has been used by blues, rock, and country bands ever since because of its distinctive tone (and relatively cheap price!). Famous artists like Buck Owens, Albert Collins, and Muddy Waters played the Telecaster in the fifties and Keith Richards and Jimmy Page have used it in an exquisite manner since the 1960’s.  On his new album, Tele Masters, Arlen Roth displays his own love and mastery of the Telecaster with a stellar set of 16 tunes.

Arlen Roth_buick and telecaster

Over the years, Arlen has performed with Bob Dylan, Simon & Garfunkel, Levon Helm, Ry Cooder, Johnny Winter, Rick Vito, and Sonny Landreth (click here for a great live performance by them of Blues Attack ) to name just a few.  He has been voted one of the 100 Most Influential Guitarists of All Time by Vintage Guitars magazine….and my bet is that many of you have never heard his music!  Well, I hope we can change that after a listen to this inspiring new album.

The list of artists that contributed to this effort is impressive.  The most notable to regular readers of my blog is Joe BonamassaJoe’s Blues is Bonamassa’s tribute to the legendary Albert Collins and is a must have for collectors of Joe’s tunes. Also contributing on the recording are Steve Cropper (yeah THAT Steve Cropper), Vince Gill, Brad Paisley, Jack Pearson, Albert Lee, Jerry Donahue, Johnny Hiland, Bill Kirchen, Brent Mason, Will Ray, Red Volkaert, Cindy Cashdollar, Billy Panda, Bryan Sutton, Tommy MacDonald, and Steve Wariner.  The drummer on the album and its producer is one of my favorite people, Grammy Award winner Tom Hambridge who plays with Buddy Guy.  Tom’s production of the songs brings out the best in Arlen and showcases the distinctive attributes of the Telecaster in a way that is engaging and entertaining.  The album is primarily instrumental but features several songs with vocals that I really loved.

Arlen Roth_TeleMaster album

Jack Pearson, a notable musician and singer who played with the Allman Brothers Band and also toured with Gregg Allman, is featured on vocals and guitar on two awesome blues cuts: I Can Fix It (where he and Arlen do a great job of trading guitar licks) and on an inspiring version of Key to the Highway.  The fabulous Steve Cropper contributes vocals and guitar licks on the bluesy White Lightning.  All three cuts will get significant airplay during my upcoming sets on http://www.bluesmusicfan.com.

But what truly underpins this album is the guitar artistry of Arlen Roth. He recorded his first album in 1978 and now, fifteen albums later, we hear his guitar playing at its very best.  Besides the blues tunes, he romps through a haunting rendition of Ghost Riders in the Sky, a lovely cover of Tennessee Waltz with his daughter, Lexie Roth, on vocals, cranks it up on Rumble, and then lays down the case for why the Telecaster is such a great guitar on the badass instrumental, Tuff Tele.

This album is worth spending an evening with as I have done.  Get yourself a drink, a smoke, or whatever relaxes you and telecast the night away with Arlen Roth and friends.


2019 Aquinnah Records

Equinox Blues on BMFR Thursday 3 pm EST with Ben Vee

The equinox was yesterday and it’s now spring time in the northern hemisphere and fall has come for our friends down under. But what evah the season……the roadhouse blues roll on.  Join us at http://www.bluesmusicfan.com for some great contemporary blues at 3 pm EST today…March 21st.

Below is the intended playlist just in case ya want to download a couple and help the blues to survive & thrive!

ARTIST TITLE
Widow Blue Pow Wow Blues
Black Cat Biscuit Bad James
Glen Clark Accept My Love
Reese Wynans & Friends Shape I’m In
Rick Vito Pretty Women
Gabriel Cox Pretty Little Lady
Joe Bonamassa Love Is A Gamble
Hurricane Ruth Dance, Dance, Norma Jean
Chicken Shack Midnight Hour
Chris Antonik Slow Moving Train
Tedeschi Trucks Band Signs, High Times
Chantel McGregor Help Me
Kenny Parker Baby Come Back To Me
Brandon Santini Back To You
Leroy Ellington’s Sacred Hearts Doghouse
Danny Cowan Group Further On Up The Road
Billy F Gibbons Mo’ Slower Blues
Buddy Guy Bad Day
Tinsley Ellis Gamblin’ Man
Coyote Kings Drive Me
Murray Kinsley and Wicked Grin Dark Nights
Tiffany Pollack & Eric Johanson Diamonds On The Crown
TOMMY CASTRO Can’t Keep A Good Man Down (Live)
Walter Trout Me My Guitar And The Blues
Nick Schnebelen Bad Dream