What is the blues? I get asked that question a lot and it is not as easy to answer as it might sound. The blues covers a lot of territory from its roots in the African culture and rhythms of the American Deep South to the latest music from Buddy Guy and Joe Bonamassa. There is the delta blues of the 1920’s, 30’s, and 40’s personified in the music of Robert Johnson, Charley Patton, Skip James, Son House, and Sonny Boy Williamson to name just a few. There is the electric blues (and soul blues) of Muddy Waters, B.B. King, Junior Wells, Buddy Guy, Elmore James, Albert King, Freddie King, John Lee Hooker, Willie Dixon, and Howlin’ Wolf that emigrated from the American south to the cities of the northern United States during the 40’s and 50’s , primarily to Chicago. Both the delta and Chicago blues were reinterpreted by a bunch of young urban kids in bands like the Rolling Stones, John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers, the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, the Doors, Led Zeppelin, ZZ Top, Jimi Hendrix, Savoy Brown, and many others to create the blues rock genre. There are country blues, jazz blues, soul blues, jump blues, Kansas City Blues, St. Louis blues, New Orleans blues, gospel blues, swamp blues, and the West Coast blues. There are female blues (and jazz) from the likes of Billie Holiday, Nina Simone, Etta James, Janis Joplin, Janiva Magness, Koko Taylor, Samantha Fish, and Beth Hart. The blues is a broad diversified music genre that has expanded from the Mississippi Delta and is now enjoyed all over the world.
So for me, the blues is about the music. It has no color, though we all pay our deep respects to the early black blues men and women artists who worked the fields, the juke joints, and battled the menace of segregation. The blues is definitely not politically correct, and it is not confined to one type of lyric composition or music style. It is the music of the soul battling the everyday demons that haunt us all. The stories it tells in the music often don’t have happy ending and deal with jealousy, lust, drinking, anger, remorse, and sadness. But they also address joy, faith, and profound love. The blues instrument of choice for me is the electric guitar but the acoustic guitar, the bass, drums, the Hammond organ, the harmonica, the piano and electric keyboards, and a variety of horns populate the music of the blues.
So if you’d like to learn more about the blues, listen to the music! Download some to support the artists, checkout out Spotify on the internet, visit my 24 hour stream WRBH, and most importantly, go see them LIVE! Blues artists almost to a person are accessible at their shows. They are you and me…real down to earth people. And they love their blues. They have to….. since most can’t make a living solely from the blues unless they stay on the road paying their dues. (And that is one of the reasons COVID lockdowns have been so devastating to the lives of blues artists!) Below is a list of artists that I enjoy from the electric blues and blues rock genres; many have passed on but there are plenty that are out there touring regularly. It is not an all inclusive list but it will get you started! Enjoy the artists and the tunes!
Electric and Soul Blues Artists
B.B. King, Albert King, Freddie King, Buddy Guy, Etta James, Eric Clapton, Luther Allison, Janiva Magness, Koko Taylor, Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, John Lee Hooker, Sonny Boy Williamson II, Little Walter, Hubert Sumlin, Albert Collins, AC Reed, Chris Thomas King, Curtis Salgado, Deborah Coleman, Dion, Boz Scaggs, Hound Dog Taylor, Elmore James, Willie Dixon, Ian Siegal, Irma Thomas, Jimmy Reed, Ray Charles, Joe Lewis Walker, Johnny Copeland, Shemika Copeland, Junior Wells, Keb Mo, Tab Benoit, Kim Wilson, Lonnie Brooks, Lonnie Mack, Magic Sam, Magic Slim, Marcia Ball, Maria Muldaur, Mary Bridget Davies, Mavis Staples, Melody Gardot, Mississippi Fred McDowell, RL Burnside, Nina Simone, Otis Rush, Robert Cray, Robert Johnson, Ronnie Baker Brooks, Ruthie Foster, Seasick Steve, Taj Mahal, and T-Bone Walker.
Blues Rock Artists
Joe Bonamassa, Beth Hart, Albert Cummings, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Jimmie Vaughan, Jimi Hendrix, 24 Pesos, The Black Keys, the Rolling Stones, Cream, Alvin Lee, Robin Trower, Albert Castiglia, Damon Fowler, Ana Popovic, Meena, The Doors, Led Zeppelin, ZZ Top, Bonnie Raitt, Bryce Janey, Jack White, Julian Sass, Coco Montoya, Colin James, Dave Hole, David Gogo, Derek Trucks, Susan Tedeschi, the Tedeschi Trucks Band, Eric Gales, Dr. John, Van Morrison, Steve Miller Band, Johnny Winter, Elvin Bishop, Eric Sardinas, the Allman Brothers, Gary Clark Jr, Gary Moore, Jeff Healey, George Thorogood, Gov’t Mule, Greg Allman, Devon Allman, The Royal Southern Brotherhood, Trampled Under Foot, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Thackery, Joanne Shaw Taylor, Jonny Lang, Joss Stone, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, the Fabulous Thunderbirds, Leslie West, Mike Zito, Nick Moss, Ollie Brown, Omar and the Howlers, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Pat Travers, Chuck Berry, Fleetwood Mac, Rory Gallagher, Samantha Fish, Sena Ehrhardt, Sonny Landreth, Stacy Mitchart, JJ Grey & Mofro, The Blues Brothers, The Paul Butterfield Blues Band, Peter Green, Tinsley Ellis, Tommy Castro, Grand Funk Railroad, Joe Cocker, Tony Jo White, Ty Curtis Band, ZZ Ward, Walter Trout, and Warren Haynes.