Compiled by Will Harris
Hello and welcome to Nothin’ But The Blues, Midlands Rocks’ brand new monthly roundup covering what’s going in the world of — you guessed it — the blues.
May had some particular highlights in terms of blues releases, not least the latest offering from legendary harmonica man James Cotton, known best for blowing harp for both Howlin’ Wolf and Muddy Waters. Cotton Mouth Man has Cotton on superb form, and he even invites along pals Joe Bonamassa, Gregg Allman and Keb Mo for some tracks. Other harmonica albums that dropped in May include Remembering Little Walter, a tribute to the late, great man, and Classic Harmonica Blues, the 21st addition to Smithsonian Folkways Classic discography, featuring 20 early harmonica stars, including Jazz Gillum and Sonny Terry.
James Cotton isn’t the only person Bonamassa’s been busy with, having released his second collaboration album with sassy songstress Beth Hart, See Saw in May too — watch the video below for their rocking rereading of Tina Turner’s ‘Nutbush City Limits’.
From legends to new ‘uns, 26-year-old Cassie Taylor made a big splash with her strong debut Out Of My Mind the same month, seeing her apply a refreshingly softer touch to the blues, while still having a bit of kick on the louder numbers (you can listen to the album in full on her Bandcamp page here).
May also saw Eric Clapton bring down the house in Birmingham — were you there? Let us know what it was like in the comments below!
June promises some good new albums, not least blues-rocker Marcus Bonfanti’s third one, ‘Shake The Walls’. Out 17th June, you can listen to the lead single, ‘Cheap Whisky’ in the video below, and then, if you like it, catch him at The Musician in Leicester on 2nd July.
On 10th June energetic axeman Walter Trout will release his tribute to blues axeman Luther Allison with Luther’s Blues, the same day that Floating Worlds Records will unleash a six-CD set of sensational slide, The Big Box Of Elmore James, and Repertoire Records releases DVDs of both The Blues Band and the Climax Blues Band’s performances at famous German rock venue and TV show Rockpalast.
June also sees the Midlands host some of the best blues gigs of the summer: legendary blueswoman Bonnie Raitt appears in Nottingham on 25th June, and at Birmingham Symphony Hall on 11th June, the same place George Thorogood and the Destroyers will be performing on 23rd June. Linton Festival in Herefordshire (21st to 23rd June) features some real stars in this year’s lineup, including Sandi Thom, Larry Miller and Ruby Turner. Fast-pickin’ slide guitarist Martin Harley will also be touring this month, with dates in Derby, Coalville and Oswestry, while son of the seventh son himself Mud Morganfield returns for another UK tour, appearing in Oxford on 9th June. Last time round he really did his late daddy proud, and even managed to squeeze in a performance on Later… with Jools Holland — see video below!
Looking further down the line, Joe Bonamassa takes his tour to Birmingham on 27th September, and Joanne Shaw Taylor has just announced she’ll also be playing in Brum, on 29th November.
Not in the Midlands but one definitely worth leaving town for, Ben Harper and harmonica legend Charlie Musselwhite will be playing a one-off show at Shepherd’s Bush in London on 16th July. Their raucous and well-crafted Get Up! has proven to be one of the best blues albums of the year so far, so the gig’s almost sure to be a good one: if you haven’t heard it, catch a glimpse of them in action below:
In local band news, Shrewsbury’s own young growler Blues Boy Dan Owen is really making a name for himself, with upcoming dates including performances at The Acoustic Festival of Britain in Uttoxeter, Staffordshire on the 1st of June, at the Manchester and Hammersmith Apollos, at this year’s Glasto as well as dates in Ireland, Paris and Germany! Listen to his gravelled larynx take on Willie Dixon’s classic ‘Litte Red Rooster’ in this vid:
If you’ve seen or discovered any great blues bands/artists recently, please share your thoughts in the comments below. Check in to Midlands Rocks the same time next month for the July instalment of Nothin’ But The Blues…