After years leading Southern soul-blues bands on well-produced and often risque albums, Bobby Rush goes back to the country with this acoustic and mostly solo disc. Playing not only his harmonica, but also guitar and foot percussion, Rush has made one of the deepest folk-blues albums of recent years. Listen to "What’s the Use."
Ulmer continues to bring a rare perspective to blues, coming to it from his experience as a free-jazz player. Whether it's his songs, or classics from Bessie Smith and Son House, Ulmer offers a new and challenging approach to the blues. Listen to "Grinnin' in Your Face."
One of the greatest singers from the world of commercial gospel music pays tribute to one of the greatest folk-revival figures. Before this project was presented to her, Knight had never even heard of Rev. Gary Davis, but on this tribute to him, she sounds like she's known these songs all her life. Listen to "Death Don't Have No Mercy."
Sugar Blue, one of the most innovative blues harmonica players, hasn't made an album in more than a decade. Finally in control of issues that derailed his career and his life, Blue plays spicy blues packed with social commentary. Listen to "Chicago Blues."
Back after eight years, gaining the upper hand on serious illnesses, the Queen of the Blues sings as well as she ever has, mixing originals with blues classics that we haven't heard in a while. As always, she fully exploits the battle of the sexes. Listen to "Piece of a Man."
If you had to pick a single place that was most integral to the blues in its history, it might well be Clarksdale, Miss., where Big T and Junebug live. This duo represents Clarksdale today, with soulful country blues that draws on their life experiences but makes them ours, too. Listen to "The Wolves are Howling."
This Canadian artist was once a member of The Chairmen of the Board. This album mixes country and city blues, always with a refreshing less-is-more approach that connects the deep, rootsy blues with modern experience. Listen to "The Jones."
This blues duo pays tribute to Memphis bluesman Frank Stokes with some of his songs and the music of his contemporaries. Apart from being a welcome alternative to the endless Robert Johnson tributes, this album also showcases some real talent in modern country blues. Listen to "One Way Gal."
Mem Shannon has it all: He's a great songwriter, singer and guitarist with years of road experience. This live album showcases many of his fine songs, performed before a hometown audience in New Orleans. Listen to "Phunkville."
Bentonia, Miss., is known for its own specialized blues style, represented by the great Skip James, who was a Bentonia native. Jimmy "Duck" Holmes brings the style back and updates it on this, his second album, which includes an appearance by Bentonia's great harmonica player Bud Spires. Listen to "Catfish Blues."