Richard Skelly

Top 12 Blues ‘n’ Roots, 2005

Here’s a dozen favorite CDs from 2005:

  • John Hammond, “In Your Arms Again” (Back Porch Records)
  • Jersey City-based Hammond released a winner of an album in February 2005. He showcases the album’s original title track, plus offers up compelling versions of classic blues from Howlin’ Wolf, John Lee Hooker, Willie Dixon, Percy Mayfield and other icons. He’s accompanied by Stephen Hodges on drums and percussion and Marty Ballou on bass.

  • Tony Joe White, “The Heroines” (Sanctuary Records)
  • The Nashville, Tenn.-based White, who performs electric guitar and harmonica and is accompanied only by a drummer, has had several ups and downs through his long career, including brushes with stardom via his associations with major labels, among them Atlantic Records. The swamp blues king’s admirers include everyone from Lucinda Williams to Elvis Costello, and this is just one reason why.

  • Angela Strehli, “Blue Highway” (M.C. Records)
  • Strehli, like her Austin, Texas-based running buddy Lou Ann Barton, has been chronically under-recorded throughout her career. Thankfully, Mark Carpentieri from New York-based M.C. Records had the good sense to sign her. Her original songs are in abundance on this album, and Stevie Ray Vaughan fans will appreciate her inclusion of a live track with Vaughan, recorded in Austin in the 1980s. “Austin’s Home of the Blues,” her ode to Clifford Antone, who practically started Austin’s live music renaissance in the mid-’70s, is particularly heartfelt.

  • Delbert McClinton, “Cost of Living” (New West Records)
  • Since he began singing and writing his own songs in Dallas in the 1960s, McClinton has been in a class by himself. The dynamic, genre-busting singer and harmonica player offers up songs that span the gamut, from the bawdy blues of “One of the Fortunate Few” to country ballads “Kiss Her Once For Me” and the rockin’ roadhouse music of “I Had a Real Good Time.”

  • Candye Kane, “White Trash Girl” (Ruf Records)
  • Los Angeles-based pianist/singer/songwriter Kane offers up refreshing arrangements and clever lyrics that break new ground in contemporary blues on her new album for Ruf Records, which has its U.S. offices in Kenilworth.

  • Mem Shannon, “I’m From Phunkville” (Northern Blues Music)
  • The former New Orleans taxi driver has recorded a brilliant debut for the Toronto-based Northern Blues Music label. All the songs except one are Shannon
    originals. He offers up sharp observations of contemporary society with “Ignant Stick.” He does an inspiring take on The Beatles’ “Eleanor Rigby.”

  • Tab Benoit, “Voice of the Wetlands” (Rykodisc)
  • An all-star cast accompanies Louisiana guitarist/singer/songwriter Benoit (pronounced ben-wah) on this release. The album’s proceeds are being donated to benefit preservation and conservation of the Louisiana wetlands, which played such a big role in the flooding of the Crescent City after Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast region. Benoit is accompanied by the likes of Dr. John, Cyril Neville, George Porter Jr. and other members of the Meters on this album.

  • Detroit Junior, “Blues on the Internet” (Delmark Records)
  • Chicago-based pianist/songwriter/singer Emery Williams Jr. died in August, but he went out with a bang on this, his last album. College and public radio DJ’s latched onto Detroit Junior’s contemporary “Blues on the Internet” and made the tune and the album a hit.

  • Shemekia Copeland, “The Soul Truth” (Alligator Records)
  • For her fourth album, the dynamic young vocalist, daughter of the late Texas bluesman Johnny “Clyde” Copeland, teams up with producer Steve Cropper, guitarist for Booker T and the MG’s fame. Cropper puts a Memphis twist on many of the horn-heavy arrangements. As always, Copeland is in fine voice. She remains one of the most dynamic and busy performers in contemporary blues.

  • Joy Lynn White, “One More Time” (Thortch Recordings)
  • Vocalist and songwriter White, who is based in Nashville, shows she can do it all on a stunning debut album. She’s equally at home with the barrelhouse blues of “Good Rockin’ Mama” and her twist on Allen Toussaint’s “Certain Girl” (renamed “Certain Boy”) as she is with the country-flavored “Girls With Apartments in Nashville.”

  • Susan Tedeschi, “Hope and Desire” (Verve Forecast)
  • The Boston-raised Tedeschi (pronounced Ted-esk-ee) straddles the lines between roots-rock, blues, gospel, Americana and contemporary folk songs on this album, covering tunes by Mick Jagger/Keith Richards, Bob Dylan, Otis Redding and George Jackson. On several tracks, she’s accompanied by her husband, guitarist Derek Trucks.

  • Ronnie Earl and Duke Robillard, “The Duke Meets the Earl” (Stony Plain)
  • An album of great guitar instrumental blues, co-produced by two of the genre’s top stars. Duke Robillard met Ronnie Earl in the mid-1970s on Boston’s healthy blues club scene. When Robillard left the band Roomful of Blues, Earl was his natural replacement. There are some great guitar duets on this album, including Robillard’s own “West Side Shuffle” and a compelling cover of T-Bone Walker’s “Two Bones and a Pick.”

Richard Skelly
Asbury Park Press