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.

Roadhouse Blues Bin for Mid April 2019

It’s spring time, well almost in New England, and here is what I am listening to as I await freakin’ warmer weather …..

Manx Marriner MainlineHell Bound for Heaven (2019)

Manx Marriner

Harry Manx is a blues original.  His primary musical instrument is the Mohan Veena,  often associated with classical music from India, which gives Harry’s music a surreal sound that is perfect for the blues. His partner for the album is Steve Marriner, a gifted harmonica and guitar player who also performs on the drums, organ, and bass.  Both have great voices and contribute songs for Hell Bound for Heaven, released by Stony Plain Records.

The recording has a mix of what I call roots blues and gospel tunes.  I particularly enjoyed their rendition of the legendary Charlie Patton’s Rattlesnake.  And the songs Hell Bound for Heaven, Nothing, and Everybody Knows will get a lot of spins on my personal stream (http://s1.nexuscast.com:8043) and during my upcoming sets on Blues Music Fan Radio.  Great tunes from a duo of Canadian artists!!!

Stony Plain Records 2019


Harpdog Brown – For Love & Money (2019)

Harpdog brown

To be officially released on April 26th, Harpdog Brown’s For Love & Money recording is a great throwback to the swing and jazzy feel of the blues in the late 1940’s.  If I didn’t know better I would swear this Canadian from British Columbia had grown up in New Orleans.  With a heavy emphasis on piano and horns on the album, Harpdog reminds me alot of the best of Dr. John….gravely voice, gritty lyrics, and fantastic musicianship.

I particularly enjoyed Thinkin’ and Drinkin’, Blue Light Boogie, Buzzard Luck, and Vicious Vodka.  An album best enjoyed with your woman and a martini and cigar in hand for sure!

Dog House Records 2019


Brandon Santini – The Longshot (2019)

Brandon Santini

Brandon Santini turns up the amplifier (and I’d say it’s about time!) on his new album, The Longshot.  An up and coming harmonica player and vocalist who has already been nominated for the BMA blues harmonica player of the year award (2014), his future is bright to say the least! I always have felt that Brandon, who I became aware of in 2012, had the ideal voice and harmonica skills to lay down some badass blues rock……and now he has.

He is backed on this outing by a solid group of musicians; Timo Arthur and Jed Potts on guitars, one of my favorite keyboard players John Ginty, Chuck Combs on bass, and Reid Muchow on drums.  Ginty, Santini, and Ben Elliot produced the album.

I loved Somebody’s Gotta Go, Back to You, Beggin’ Baby, Going Home, and Drive You Off My Mind.  All of them are now in rotation for my DJ sets.

I certainly think this album deserves early consideration as a nominee for Blues Rock album of 2019!  Keep crankin out dem roadhouse blues Brandon!!!

American Showplace Music (2019)


Mark Wenner’s Blues Warriors (2018)

Mark Wenner

A side project for long time Nighthawk Mark Wenner, this album is a refreshing celebration of tunes by Muddy Water, B.B. King, Sonny Boy Williamson, Fats Domino, Big Joe Turner, Elmore James, and Slim Harpo.  Mark is a gifted singer and harmonica player and his brilliance carries this upbeat bluzin’ album.  Fellow Nighthawk, Mark Stutso joins him on drums, along with talented guitarist Zach Sweeney, singer and guitarist Clarence “The Bluesman” Turner, and features the double bass of Steve Wolf.

I loved every cut on this CD including King Bee, Trust My Baby, Rock A While, Hello Josephine, (Let Me Be Your) Teddy Bear, It’s My Own Fault,  and Dust My Broom. The album includes a really nice cover of a relatively unknown tune by Muddy Waters Diamonds at Your Feet that I have worked into my blues sets al ot over the years and the only original song, written by Mark, is an instrumental tribute to the legendary Jimmy Reed entitled Just Like Jimmy.

If you want to spend some time listening to straight up rockin’ blues from the fifties, you can’t do better than downloading and listening to this album!

Ellersoul Records 2018