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Sunday, January 2, 2011

State Of The Blues 2010

I have never really had a reason to write about the state of the blues.  As the years have rolled on, it seemed that the blues more or less was the same as it always was.  No need to say hey, things are the same!  However, it seems to me that the blues has been slipping into some precarious waters over the last few years.  In fact, the last ten years have been brutal for the blues.   Clubs are closing, blues societies are shrinking, festivals are canceling, and the digital revolution has really hurt the music business at all levels.  In many ways this is the history of the blues.  It has always ebbed and flowed. It started very low key in the south during reconstruction, but at the turn of the century it had become popular through out the country.  However, by the 1930s blues was back to being a regional music.  While the children of the blues Jazz, and Swing grew in popularity, blues sat dormant until the Jump blues craze of the 40s, and the rise of Chicago Blues in the 50s.  By the mid 60s the blues was becoming dormant again, and regardless of what the British think, they didn't save the blues in the 60s.  By 1970 blues sat by as its second generation of children, Rock and Roll, R &B, Soul, Funk, and Disco ruled the world.  It really wasn't until the 1980s that the blues rose again, and for a good 20 years remained strong.  However, the last ten have been rough. 

So what can we do to get the blues back on track.  First, I think there is a quite debate over what is the blues. It is not a new debate, and many people want to sweep it under the rug, but it is there and it is real.  Can a band that 20 years ago was considered a rock band, be a blues band now??  It certainly made me mad years ago when I had to compete with rock bands who would book themselves as blues bands just to make a buck.  It doesn't matter how many blues standards you play, if you are not a blues band, you are not a blues band. Yet, I get emails, and links to dozens of bands every week, who are not blues, but want to be advertised, or reviewed as a blues band.  Unlike some of my friends in the blogosphere who review these bands, and when the review is not good they get creamed by the band and their fans, I just stay away from them.  To me it is not worth writing a bad review and having to deal with a handful of crazy fans.  I wish there was an easy answer to this, but at this point it hurts the blues on a large scale when people go away disappointed in a show because the band didn't play the blues!  Then when they stop going out to the clubs or festivals, we have a huge problem.

I also think there is a huge section of the blues world that is going virtually unnoticed.  That is the growing number of southern soul performers on the Chitlin Circuit.  CDS Records, has a great stable of artists including one of the most underated blues performers out there today Chick Willis. Chick has been around forever, and certainly had some fame in his younger days, but he is still out there putting on shows.  Also an important website, and promoter of the blues that very few people know about it Blues Critic Media

They put out the monthly top ten of soul and blues.  Take a look at January and think to yourself how many of these performers have you heard???  Especially on your local blues radio show!!! 
Top 50 Southern Soul, Rhythm & Blues Albums
Deep Soul + Soul/Blues + Downhome Blues + Urban Blues
The Nation's OFFICIAL Soul/Blues and Southern Soul Albums Chart
1 1 The Voice Willie Clayton C & C
2 NEW Soul Prescription Bigg Robb Over 25 Sounds
3 3 The MVP Kenne' Wayne G Street
4 NEW Just Charlie** Charlie Wilson Def Jam
5 NEW In The Zone: Southern Soul Style, Vol. 1 Sir Jonathan Burton Aviara Music
6 4 Reggie P (The Rude Boy Of Southern Soul) Reggie P Rude Boy
7 NEW Love Letter** R. Kelly Jive
8 2 America's Most Wanted Calvin Richardson Shanachie
9 7 I Ain't Gone Do It Mel Waiters Waldoxy
10 5 Deep South Southern Soul Chuck Roberson CDS
11 6 That Thang Thang O.B. Buchana Ecko
12 10 All Of Me Floyd Taylor CDS
13 8 The First Rule Of Cheating Lee "Shot" Williams CDS
14 11 Blues Mix 1: Super Soul Blues Various Artists Ecko
15 14 Ms. Jody's In The Streets Again Ms. Jody Ecko
16 12 24 Hour Woman Denise LaSalle Malaco
17 13 Shots Of Southern Soul Various Artists CDS
18 9 In Touch With My Southern Soul Wendell B. Smoothway Ent.
19 16 Club Southern Soul 1 Various Artists CDS
20 22 Love Who You Wanna Love Carl Marshall CDS
21 15 Love Attack Mr. Sam Lifetime Lover
22 18 Forever Young Gregg A. Smith CDS
23 17 A Girl Like Me Sweet Angel Ecko
24 34 Truth Be Told Vick Allen Soul 1st
25 19 That Girl Belongs To Me Charles Wilson CDS
26 23 Mr. Blues: The Best Of...So Far Chick Willis Benevolent Blues
27 24 Woof Woof Meow J. Backfoot JEA Music
28 25 Unfinished Business Lenny Williams Lenlon
29 20 I'm Satisfied Cicero Blake CDS
30 21 Sexy Soul Songs* LaMorris Williams Rocks Landon
31 RE Save A Little Room For Me (I'm Coming Home For Christmas) Wendell B Smoothway Ent
32 26 Beat It Up David Brinston Ecko
33 RE Merry Christmas From The Bigg Man Bigg Robb Over 25 Sounds
34 27 The Evolution Of Soul T.K. Soul Soulful
35 RE It's Christmas Baby Various Artists Ecko
36 RE Christmas Southern Soul Style Carl Marshall CDS
37 29 Special Delivery Big G CDS
38 36 Wilbe Records Greatest Hits* Various Artists Wilbe
39 33 Slap It Tap It Jim Bennett Aviara Music
40 32 Back To Bidness Wendell B Smoothway Ent.
41 38 The Preacher's Wife Luther Lackey Ecko
42 37 It's BYOB Donnie Ray Ecko
43 41 Call Before You Come Gerod Rayborn New Groove
44 47 All About the Rhythm & The Blues Latimore Latstone
45 NEW Birthday Suit (digital album) Certified Slim self
46 31 Southern Soul Blues Hot Spot Vol. 1** Various Artists Hot Spot
47 28 On The Chittlin' Circuit 2: Memphis Soul Blues** Various Artists Ecko
48 30 Cougar Pat Cooley L & L
49 35 Jerri Curl Muzik Bigg Robb Over 25 Sound
50 39 Lacee's Groove Lacee Advantage
This chart is based on a combination of Radio Airplay and ACTUAL SALES from the Southern Soul Blues community worldwide though primarily in the Southern United States.
Eligible entrees must be "New" or are currently experiencing a bump in airplay.
Albums marked with * charted mostly on Airplay while albums marked with ** charted mostly on Sales.
**click on CD STORE**

If you live down South then you are aware of these artists, but most of these performers rarely get airplay or play gigs in the North.   I am not making any implications here, but there is some great blues going on and you are missing it. 

My own feeling about how to save the blues is pretty simple.  Blues Societies need to remember that blues has to be built from the ground up.  You have to start local.  Build up your local bands, and promote your regional bands.  Also when putting on big shows take a look at some bands from other regions, especially in the deep south.  Also don't get caught up in bringing in old rock acts, because they will bring in more people. It might work the first time, but it will alienate the blues crowd and they are staying home because of it.  

I certainly hope that the new year improves the condition of the blues.  Certainly once the weather warms ups it seems that the gigs start to pile up as well.  Festival time is a time for everyone involved with the blues to get healthy.  Here is hope that this year will start the rebirth of the blues for a new generation. 

Blues Historian


Ben the Harpman said...

Great post. Agree with most all of it. I don't know many people who've even heard of most of the artists on that Top 50 chart. I've only been lucky enough to see a handful of them up here in Illinois.

As for the reviews, I'd rather get slammed by the artist, label, and the fans telling them their music isn't really blues just to keep my perspective in perspective. I'm definitely not a gate-keeper, but there aren't enough of the old guys around going, "No that shit ain't blues, man."

Chicago is still a great city for tried and true blues. You have to go to the smaller venues and clubs to find it. Delmark still puts out great records. Again, thanks for the post.

Blues Historian said...

Thanks Ben

You have a great site. I truly admire your courage for posting honest reviews. (just reading the comments about me on the one review I supported you on was enough to convince me not to review anymore CDS:-)

I also agree with Delmark still putting out good CDS. Bob has been keeping the blues alive for a long time.