I’ve made a Spotify playlist of 10 blues tracks I’ve enjoyed listening to this summer:
- New Horizon by Royal Southern Brotherhood
- Saw My Mama Cryin by Walter Trout
- Jump That Train by Joanne Shaw Taylor
- Let Me In by Gráinne Duffy
- Somewhere Trouble Don’t Go by Joe Bonamassa
- Nickel Soul by WT Feaster Band
- Long Distance Lover by Cherry Lee Mewis
- What’s My Name by Henrik Freischlader
- Gotta Get Back Up by Laurence Jones
- Freedom at 21 by Jack White
Read on for a rundown of each artist and track.
Royal Southern Brotherhood‘s self-titled first album released in May is my favourite this summer. It’s steeped in New Orleans atmosphere and you can hear all kinds of styles: southern rock, blues, jazz and soul. Royal Southern Brotherhood are guitarists Mike Zito and Devon Allman, percussionist Cyril Neville, drummer Yonrico Scott and bassist Charlie Wooten.
I’ve tried to focus this playlist on artists giving their own alternative take on the blues – those who introduce new elements and create something new. But, cor blimey, if you’re into fiery, searing leads wrangled from a beaten-up Strat with a voice that sounds like he’s experienced everything life offers and then some, Walter Trout‘s 2012 album Blues For The Modern Daze – and tracks Saw My Mama Cryin and The Sky Is Fallin’ Down – are jaw-dropping. Walter Trout played in John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, Canned Heat, and supported Big Mama Thornton and John Lee Hooker. His work this year sounds like an experienced artist at an astonishing peak.
Joanne Shaw Taylor is a blues guitarist and singer fronting a power trio. I saw her support Black Country Communion in Wolverhampton in 2010 where she performed brilliantly. With a smoky voice, she’s a great guitarist clearly influenced by Stevie Ray Vaughan, but with restraint and subtlety in the songwriting as well as the shredding. Joanne recently released her third album Almost Always Never. For this playlist, I’ve chosen Jump That Train from her 2010 album Diamonds in the Dirt as it simply hooked me immediately.
A softer, more crafted, feeling on this song. It rolls along with a country feel but with toned-down Les Paul rhythm that keeps the groove moving without overpowering. If I was choosing tapes for a driving trip, with Tom Petty on one side of a cassette, Duffy‘s album Test of Time would be the flipside. Addictive stuff.
Ok, Jo-Bo isn’t new; he’s top of the tree of slick, modern blues rock but I can’t make a top 10 blues playlist without a track from his new album Driving Towards The Daylight released in May. It features stunning guitar playing (no suprise there) and great reworkings of other people’s songs, including Buddy Miller’s Somewhere Trouble Don’t Go.
Indianapolis guitarist WT Feaster is a gifted performer. Singing, playing guitar and fronting a trio live (backed by a Hammond organ on his studio albums), he plays funky, soulful guitar yet can really rock out too. I saw WT Feaster at Maryport Blues Festival when he played most of his first album Long Overdue. Opening track Back For More stood out with its jaunty rhythm, SRV-influenced chops – that half-gain, half-clean jangling Strat sound. When I saw WT Feaster Band a few years later, touring the album Wish You Well, they blew me away. And he’s a thoroughly nice, modest bloke if you get to chat with him after a show.
Described as “blues powerhouse meets hillbilly boogie” though I think there’s much more going on here. There’s bag loads of sass, style and lyrical quality. Long Distance Lover features a rockabilly backing with Mediterranean flavour guitar drifting behind Cherry’s vocals. Cherry Lee Mewis is a musical sashay with strawberries on top.
A German blues guitarist with the Brooklyn hipster look, Henrik Freischlader isn’t the run-of-the-mill hoary guy bashing out the same 12 bars on a custom shop pre-distressed Strat. He reminds me more of Jon Mayer, particularly in his voice. Henrik can still rock out though – check him out on Do Did Done.
Straight Strat sound, solid guitar chops and plenty of confidence. Impressive stuff from this 19-year old blues guitarist and singer on his first album. I’m looking forward to hearing more from Laurence Jones.
Taken from his début solo album Blunderbuss, this is raw, pared-down, with plenty of modern touches. If blues purists think this stuff is sacrilege, yah boo sucks. I’m glad creative visionaries like Jack White are here today and constantly pushing the blues genre on.