Best Blues Albums of 2018
(May – August)
Written By Patrick Ortiz
There have been some incredible albums released in 2018 so far in every genre from jazz and rock to rap and soul. Of course, there also has been a sufficient helping of awesome blues albums that have emerged this year. These albums feature living blues legends and hot up and coming artists. I encourage all of you to go out and explore any and all music you can, especially new bands!
With that being said, as a continuation to our “Best Blues Albums of 2018” list, we will be exploring albums released between May and August.
The Bones of J.R. Jones – Ones To Keep Close
Jonathon Linaberry has used his one-man-band project to express his love for the old school blues greats translated to appeal to modern blues-rock enthusiasts. On his fourth release, Ones To Keep Close, he capitalizes on the gritty, stompy blues sound while also adding in catchy hooks throughout. Tunes like “Burden,” “Sinner Song,” and “Die Young” pay homage to his older folk days but they show the artist in a much more mature and comfortable position musically. Overall, this was a great effort from Bones of JR Jones and it includes tracks that could sneak into popular culture as well. Hopefully we will see more from the artist in the years to come.
Stand out tunes: “The Drop,” “Know My Name,” and “I See You”
Buddy Guy – The Blues is Alive and Well
Anyone who says they are too old to do something should look at our living blues legend, Buddy Guy. At 82 years old, Buddy Guy has released his 18th solo studio record after living one of the most legendary blues careers in history. From Muddy Waters to Junior Wells, Guy has played with a who’s who list of musicians and has influenced Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page, Eric Clapton, and a host of other blues masters. On his latest offering released in June, Buddy exclaims a statement that is true in his case and in general, “The Blues is Alive and Well.” Sometimes when a seasoned musician releases an album at this stage in the game, we do not anticipate much, and reviewers tend to tip-toe around hoping not to offend a legendary musician. But, with this album, Buddy Guy proves that age is only a number as he is on top of his game in every aspect. According to reviewer Steven Ovadia, “Buddy Guy brings it on each and every track. Any blues fan will truly love this album.”
Stand Out Tunes: All of Them!
Fantastic Negrito – Please Don’t Be Dead
Xavier Amin Dphrepaulezz has had a troubled and significantly rough life in various ways. With his impressive musical offerings and successful business venture in his record label, he is proving that it is never too late to realize your dreams and turn your life around. His first release, The Last Days of Oakland earned Negrito a Grammy for the Best Contemporary Blues Album in 2017. With his second offering, Please Don’t Be Dead, the trending musician addresses rough patches in his life including a near-fatal car accident that left him in a long-lasting coma and quite literally flipped his life around. His music is impactful, thought provoking, and simply amazing.
Stand Out Tunes: “The Duffler,” Bullshit Anthem,” “A Cold November Street,” and “Plastic Hamburgers.”
Elvin Bishop – Something Smells Funky ‘Round Here
Elvin Bishop might be a rather obscure name to many, but in the blues guitar community, he is considered a living legend. He is known as the original guitarist in Paul Butterfield’s Blues Band and played alongside fellow guitarist Mike Bloomfield. He has also cultivated an impressive solo career, releasing 21 studio albums since 1969. Both a Rock and Roll Hall and Blues Hall of Famer, Bishop is still going strong and demonstrates his prowess on Something Smells Funky. Coming off their Grammy-nominated album in 2017, Bishop and his “Big Fun Trio” offer an energetic and tasteful blues album.
Stand Out Tunes: “Something Smells Funky ‘Round Here,” “That’s The Way Willy Likes It,” and “Stomp.”
Artur Menezes – Keep Pushing
Artur Menezes is a generally unknown powerhouse rock and blues musician who has offered his talents to musicians like Joe Satriani and several blues artists. Honestly, I was unaware of Menezes until the 2018 Keeping the Blues Alive Cruise where he was a guest of Josh Smith. His technical skills on the guitar were instantly noticeable, keeping up with the seasoned Smith and Kirk Fletcher. Hopefully his third full-length album is the spark the Brazilian bluesman needs to get his name out there!
Stand Out Tunes: “Now’s The Time,” “Come With Me,” “Pull It Through,” and “Any Day, Anytime.”
Dana Fuchs – Love Lives On
Dana Fuchs’ troubling life and subsequent experiences have primed her to be a warranted and talented blues musician. Her soulful voice matches her emotional lyrics very well and have helped to garner her a successful music career. Besides her seven albums, Fuchs was also part of the cast and accompanying soundtrack in the 2007 movie Across The Universe. Her May 18th release, Love Lives On, goes from heart-wrenching soul to straight driving blues-rock and never lets up. Make sure to put Ms. Fuchs on your radar.
Stand Out Tunes: “Nobody’s Fault But Mine,” “Love Lives On,” and “Same Sunlight.”
Joe Bonamassa – British Blues Explosion
It is no secret that Joe has an affinity for British blues guitar players; don’t we all? On his live album from England, Joe pays homage to three of his all-time favorite living British blues legends, Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck, and Eric Clapton. In true Bona-fashion, Joe rips it on every tune with a superb band backing him up. I must warn you though, after listening to this album, you are gonna want to see him live in action!
Stand Out Tunes: They are all classics!
Boz Scaggs – Out of the Blues
For more than 50 years, Boz Scaggs has been in the popular music limelight, working with bands like Steve Miller and Toto and carrying on a widely successful solo career. Scaggs has been consistently releasing new music with his blues-eyed soul and soothing elements. Out of the Blues is one of his most in your face blues records in a while, presenting blaring horns, tinkling piano, and string-bending guitar solos. Very solid effort by Mr. Scaggs!
Stand Out Tunes: “Radiator 110,” “Little Miss Night and Day,” and “The Feeling is Gone.”
Luke Winslow-King – Blue Mesa
Luke Winslow King loves old school music and is a self-described “music traditionalist.” He has been playing guitar since he was a young kid and graduated from school with a major in jazz guitar. His love for music has taken him all over the world and various cities in the US where he has worked as a music therapist and studied all aspects of music. This eclectic love of various styles has translated into an expansive sound on his records, spanning from folk and Americana to rock, jazz, and blues. His sixth album, Blue Messa has songs for all sorts of music fans from the easy listening of “You Got Mine” to the twangy “Born To Roam” and gritty blues on “Thought I Heard You.” King is a true professional musician who loves his craft. Check him out on the 5th Annual Keeping The Blues Alive Cruise in 2019!
Stand Out Tunes: “Leghorn Women,” “Chicken Dinner,” and “Farewell Blues”
R.L. Boyce– Ain’t Gonna Play Too Long
Boyce has been in and around the blues scene since the 1960’s when he played drums for various bands including his uncle, Othar Turner. He went virtually unknown until 2007 when he released his debut album Ain’t The Man’s Alright when he was 52. Then last year, his release Roll and Tumble was nominated for the Traditional Blues Grammy Award. Now, at 63 Boyce has delivered his third album with his brand of rough old-style blues he learned from Hill country bluesmen like R.L. Burnside. His voice or guitar playing isn’t the prettiest or flashiest, but it is pure and from his heart.
Stand Out Tunes: “Rooster Won’t Crow,” “Going Down South”