STAR BLUES 2016 AWARDS
Jontavious Quon Willis
Even though he has just had his 20th birthday, Quon is building up a head of steam for interest in blues; he joins a knowledgeable respect for its legacy with an easy graceful playing style. His polite, self-effacing manner belies the sharp observations of a young black man in modern America who has found a voice through blues. He is learning his craft by understanding its context and there’s a full album project due in early 2017.
Bob Koester is quite remarkable: his record store (Jazz Record Mart) had a setback but barely missed a beat; his record label Delmark had yet another year leading the Chicago blues pack. Lurrie Bell’s album is another top-notch project out of a stable that goes from strength to strength, and the enhanced reissue of Magic Sam’s second album “Black Magic” had ample fare to tempt old and new fans with previously unissued tracks. For further reason, you can add to those the critically well-received Sharon Lewis set and another romp from Mississippi Heat.
Respect the Blues – Joey Gilmore Band (Mosher St.)
Joey Gilmore is a seasoned artist and his time seems to have come at last on a group outing containing well-chosen covers in a range of styles. His voice and guitar draw from both Buddy Guy and Little Milton, the playing packs a punch throughout, yet there’s little time for grandstanding – fools aren’t suffered gladly. More than any other album we heard this year, this one defined blues in 2016.
The breadth of catalogue releases on Jasmine was a treat in 2016; they featured influential artists like Eddie Taylor, Arthur Gunter and Lula Reed rather than rehash better known names seen elsewhere in an already busy marketplace. The selections often followed a format that included ‘A’ and ‘B’ sides of singles from the years before 1962. Each disc came with session musician, issues and date details sitting alongside a brief narrative on the named act. A great example of the approach is available on their survey of Ligtnin’ Hopkins work for the Herald imprint.
Detroit Special – Various Artists (Weinerworld)
This sumptuous three disc package is a lovingly compiled, well-researched anthology of Detroit Blues. The booklet essays are worth the price of admission alone, giving many new insights and photographs of the scene’s key players. There are 84 performances from the likes of Bobo Jenkins - who is criminally under-appreciated –Baby Boy Warren, Eddie Burns and L.C. Green giving a rich picture of the Motor City scene and its importance.