We thought 2014 was a great year for blues albums, but now we’re guessing we’ll say that every year. But we really appreciated the creativity and the diverse sounds from the blues artists that released albums in 2015.
We were unanimous in our #1 pick. We’re proud of the fact that our list includes a great mix of established blues masters as well as new talent from all around the globe. Whatever your impressions of who you find on our list, we hope you’ll give each artist a good listen and see if you can hear what we hear in them, and why we chose them. Are there artists we might have missed? Sure. No list is perfect. But this one is ours and we gave strong consideration over our choices.
A note about the list: We deliberately did not include “live” or “best of” albums. A separate list of noteworthy live albums will be coming soon… there were more than a few 2015 releases with live performances that are indeed worthy of mentioning.
Much thanks to a few of the BluesMusicFan Radio DJs who contributed commentary along with their votes.
Congratulations to the blues artists who made our “Top Blues Albums of 2015” list. We are your fans, too, and we truly appreciate the music you share with the blues world!
Please support the blues artists and BluesMusicFan Radio by clicking on the album pictures and buying their music through Amazon.com.
[ #1 ] – BORN TO PLAY GUITAR – BUDDY GUY
(Click pictures to buy the albums on Amazon)
There has to be something said for a 79 year old man that can still strap on the Stratocaster – a polka dot one, at that – and school the “kids”. He truly was born to play the guitar, and for that we are lucky fans!
Sasha: The title says it all! Buddy hasn’t lost a step since his early days, blistering the clubs in Chicago with his electrifyin’ guitar. May he live forever!
Chris Allen: Mr Guy is still out there showing why he is a living legend….what else needs to be said ?
[ #2 ] – BATTLE SCARS – WALTER TROUT
Sasha: Walter’s back, and he’s still got it. He was so profoundly affected by the very-near-death experience of his liver failure and transplant that it infuses every track on this album, but that’s not a criticism. “Almost Gone” tells the story more effectively than any prose could do. It’s a very solid piece of work from a master of blues rock.
[ #3 ] – DARKER SHADE OF BLUE – SHADY DRIVE
OK we know that question is going to be asked a lot. This Cleveland trio proves that Cleveland really does rock … the blues! The album is full of blues originals, and one audacious cover of “Folsom Prison Blues”. Independently produced and a cut above the others, our own DJ Siani (in New Zealand!) stumbled across this album from an Ohio band, and told the rest of us about it – and we were pretty much all hooked and big fans – and we want more!
Chris Allen: These guys are the definition of a working man’s blues band. A rocking self-owned sound and true passion for what they do.
[ #4 ] – WOLF DEN – DANIELLE NICOLE
Produced by Anders Osborne (also on guitar) and with Luther Dickinson and Stanton Moore (of Galactic) sitting in on a number of the tunes, Danielle Nicole delivered this album packed full of bluesy soul and funky grooves.
Chris Allen: Breaking away from her sibling-assembled band straight out of Kansas City, Danielle wastes no time proving she will be a heavy-hitting blues force to be reckoned with now and in the future.
[ #5 ] – KEEP COMING BACK – MIKE ZITO
Zito assembled a great band, delivers unflinchingly honest lyrics wrapped up music hailing from all genres that touch on his life. You can hear his St. Louis roots, his East Texas home and his rockin heart. “Keep Coming Back” is rich, versatile and all about truths.
Chris Allen: Having the ability to take ones ups and downs, and convey them so smoothly into music is an outstanding talent. Mike Zito has not forgotten the dues he has paid, and this album shows undeniable proof.
[ #6 ] – OUTSKIRTS OF LOVE – SHEMEKIA COPELAND
One of the bigger surprises of “Outskirts of Love” scope of genres visited in its tracks. Always based in the blues, Copeland pulls in some country, some gospel and soul into the album. Her instrument undeniable, “Outskirts of Love” is really enjoyable to listen to. Pick one song as a standout, then you want to say, “No, this other song is even better…” and so on. It won’t take long for you to be hooked… and a fan.
Sasha: The vocals here are those of an artist at her peak, and we can only hope she stays there a long time. Her cover of “Jesus Just Left Chicago” is masterful.
[ #7 ] – SOMEONE LIKE YOU – ALBERT CUMMINGS
Rough and ready blues juxtaposed with heartfelt lyrics Albert Cummings delivers 12 tracks that exhibit just how talented he is. Cue this album up on the car stereo and hit the highway. Gonna need some speed to go with this one!
Sasha: Loved almost every track on this album. Great guitar work and really enjoyed the guest musicians sitting in on this!
Chris Allen: “Someone Like You” covers all the blues bases: Rock, Soul, Slow Standards, etc. Albert does not disappoint, and is on his way to becoming a living legend.
[ #8 ] – TEN MILES OF BAD ROAD – KAREN LOVELY
Sasha: What a powerful vocalist this lady is. She has style and soul too, and this album packs it all into one dynamite package. This isn’t happy music, but it reaches down to where the blues lives inside us all.
Cheyanne: Ten Miles of Bad Road blew me away and sent me on a musical blues trip of utmost pleasure! I could listen to it again and again…
[ #9 ] – OL’ GLORY – JJ GREY & MOFRO
Ol’ Glory has much of what you expect from JJ Grey and Mofro: the swamp blues sound that they are known for, but then something more… songs exhibiting compelling emotions. The band’s best work to date.
Chris Allen: JJ Grey & Mofro have truly harnessed the contemporary swamp/gospel/rock sound, bursting at the seams on every track…. Ol’ Glory is truly a must-have.
[ #10 ] – INTO THE SUN – ROBBEN FORD
We love the collaborations on this album: Keb’ Mo’, Robert Randolph, Sonny Landreth, Tyler Bryant, Warren Haynes. One of our favorite tracks off of “Into The Sun” is Breath Of Me the deftly woven duet with ZZ Ward.
[ #11 ] – I AIN’T LYIN’ – CHARLIE MUSSELWHITE
With every album, legendary harpman Charlie Musselwhite has delivered the goods, time and time again. “I Ain’t Lyin'” is no different. From the opening (and closing) track of Good Blues Tonight and everything in between, Musselwhite is a true professional in every sense of the word. Through his years of experience, he knows balance, he knows what works, he … just knows, period. The album is a joy to listen to and ends, oh so satisfyingly, with Cristo Redentor, a Musselwhite signature.
Chris Allen: Basically a living legend, Charlie once again gives us an amazing display of skill, soul, and passion for the blues. The band ensemble is something to take botice of as well.
Sasha: Can’t say much about this one, except I really like it! “Long Lean Lanky Mama,” “Long Leg Woman,” and “Good Blues Tonight” – all great tracks.
[ #12 ] – DIRTY MEMORY – JJ APPLETON & JASON RICCI
What a terrific duo! Appleton’s vocals and Ricci’s harp really mesh well. Bust-loose performances, both artists a bit unrefined in the best of edgy ways. Traditional blues served up in a contemporary manner … that’s what made us a fan of this album (Give Can’t Believe It’s This Good a listen)! JJ and Jason are both great in their own right, but together, they are oh-so-much better and we love spinning them.
Sasha: Jason Ricci’s blues harp is widely known and always excellent; JJ Appleton’s vocals are good! I liked this album a lot.
[ #13 ] – BOUND BY THE BLUES – SONNY LANDRETH
We’re so happy that Landreth reminded us that he is “bound by the blues” and this album is evidence of that. Two tunes really stick in people’s heads once heard, Walkin’ Blues and also the title track Bound By The Blues and what a pleasant way to spend the day, with Sonny Landreth rolling around in your head.
[ #14 ] – PERFECTAMUNDO – BILLY GIBBONS & THE BFG’S
Blues fused with other rhythms, we hold the opinion that “Perfectamundo” exemplifies Gibbons at his most creative. He breaks the texas boogie mold on this album and refuses to be pigeonholed into any single sub-genre, moving all over the musical map with every track. The results are amazingly coherent, and the album is aptly named.
[ #15 ] – LAZER LLOYD
Some people are born to play the guitar, some are born to play the blues. Lazer Lloyd was born to do both – but his primary motivation is to reach people. “I’ll heal you, you heal me. Everybody’s got the blues. When we got them together, it all works out.” he says on one of his videos. And he certainly reaches out and connects, putting it all out there. Straightforward and honest lyrics drenched in rich blues, the album and the man challenges our stereotypes of rockin’ blues musicians and delivers his musical convictions with strength. Give the moving song called Never Give Up a listen.
Chris Allen: Full of soulful and spiritual feelings, this album is breaking down barriers and showing anyone can have the blues for real.
[ #16 ] – AIN’T BAD YET – MICKE BJORKLOF & BLUE STRIP
By the looks of it, 2015 has been a good year for this Finnish blues band that has been together more than 15 years. Being included on the Blues Magazine’s (UK) CD sampler brought Micke Bjorklof & Blue Strip to BluesMusicFan’s ears, and we’re sure glad it did. Eleven tracks, terrific blues originals, we point to two favorites of ours: Blame It On The Bright Lights and Get Ya In Da Mood. The attention from the band has received from industry reports and bloggers is well deserved. Go out and buy “Ain’t Bad Yet” and give it a listen – you’ll be glad you did.
[ #17 ] – LOST TIME – DAVE & PHIL ALVIN
How these brothers (former members of The Blasters) managed to top their grammy-nominated 2014 tribute to Big Bill Broonzy kinda mystifies us, but in our opinion top it they did. “Lost Time” is full of the Alvin touch on great tracks by Leadbelly, Big Joe Turner, Big Bill Broonzy and more. Blues traditionalists will truly appreciate this body of work, blues fans will enjoy their All-American sound.
[ #18 ] – SONIC SOUL SURFER – SEASICK STEVE
Gritty vocals over home-made instruments, Seasick Steve proves on Sonic Soul Surfer that you don’t have to be young to deliver superb edgy blues.
Chris Allen: Seasick Steve will continue to nail it every time he releases an album or stands up to play. Many may enjoy the funnier side of some of his songs, and even more connect to the tribulation side. There’s something for everyone on “Sonic Soul Surfer”.
[ #19 ] – METHOD TO MY MADNESS – TOMMY CASTRO & THE PAINKILLERS
Castro is hardworking and knows what makes blues fans happy. He demonstrates that on “Method to My Madness.” More focused on the guitar sound than past Castro releases, the band hits on some delta blues with Got A Lot, blues rock with Common Ground, some Afro-Cuban sounds in All About The Cash. Whichever sound the confident Castro performs on the album it is all great music for our ears.
Chris Allen: Another hard hitting Alligator label artist, Castro and his band can rock you out of your chair, or they can make you kick back, and get lost as their sound surrounds you.
[ #20 ] – BUTTERFLIES & SNAKES – CROOKED EYE TOMMY
Crooked Eye Tommy, a band local to Santa Barbara California, serves up eleven tracks of blues originals on their independent release, “Butterflies & Snakes.” We blues originals in high esteem here on BluesMusicFan Radio, and that’s one reason this album got much air play here. The band shows great range in the kinds of blues they play on the album – some country, some jazzy, some just smooth but ALL hit the sweet spot.
Okay so that’s BluesMusicFan Radio’s list of Top 20 Blues Albums for 2015. Yep, we might have missed one or two that you would have liked to see on the list… all lists of this kind are subjective. Be assured, we really took our time and labored over our individual lists. Don’t forget to click on the album pics and buy the album… all the artists need your support so they can keep creating awesome music for us blues fans.
All of us here at BluesMusicFan Radio are looking forward with eager anticipation to what 2016 will bring us by way of blues music!