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The Best Blues Albums of 2012

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Well, gang, the year 2012 is in the history books, leaving behind a wealth of great blues music. Aside from those albums listed below, blues fans have also enjoyed new work by legends like Dion and Otis Taylor, relative newcomers like Ruthie Foster and Mud Morganfield, and the supergroup Royal Southern Brotherhood this past year. These discs rose above all else to be chose as our picks for the "best blues albums of 2012." Want more? Here's our list of the "best blues-rock albums" of 2012!

Curtis Salgado – 'Soul Shot' (Alligator Records)

Curtis Salgado's Soul Shot
Photo courtesy Alligator Records

In his review of Curtis Salgado's Soul Shot, guest writer Steve Pick wrote "Curtis Salgado is one of those rare singers who has both tremendous chops and a refined, carefully tendered approach to using them...Soul Shot ends with a gospel-styled rave-up on the difficult choice between a woman who will lead to heartbreak or the lonely life without a partner. “It’s a no-win situation,” Salgado testifies, but listening to this record is a victory for all concerned. Curtis Salgado has achieved a soulful, bluesy triumph."

Eric Bibb – 'Deeper In The Well' (Stony Plain Records)

Eric Bibb's Deeper In The Well
Photo courtesy Stony Plain Records

With Deeper In The Well, Eric Bibb has delivered a pleasant and entertaining collection of material that cuts across artificial boundaries of style or genre. This is Americana music, period, in all of its eclectic glory and all that it encompasses – blues, folk, and country sounds that have their roots in the big cities and the rural back roads of the country. Whether he's bringing his immense musical talents to bear on intelligent original songs, interpreting traditional material, or even tackling a scribe as daunting as Dylan, Bibb never fails to amaze. An underrated singer, songwriter, and guitarist with one foot in the blues and the other in a world of music, Bibb has delivered another gem with Deeper In The Well.

Heritage Blues Orchestra – 'And Still I Rise' (Raisin' Music)

Heritage Blues Orchestra's And Still I Rise
Photo courtesy Raisin' Music

Perhaps the left-field surprise among a strong 2012 roster of albums so far, the Heritage Blues Orchestra's And Still I Rise nonetheless raised a few eyebrows among longtime blues fans. Guest Author Steve Pick, reviewing the album, stated "the Heritage Blues Orchestra brings something new and exciting to the world of blues. They draw from the rich traditions of the music, yet manage to make them distinctively original and inventive. This debut gets deeper every time you play it. But the possibility is strong that we’ve only heard the beginning of what they are capable of doing. This combination of musical personalities seems likely to continue to surprise and delight for a long time."

Ian Siegal & the Mississippi Mudbloods – 'Candy Store Kid' (Nugene Records)

Ian Siegal & the Mississippi Mudbloods' Candy Store Kid
Photo courtesy Nugene Records

Ian Siegal has always been an above-average talent with a unique eye for the blues, but with Candy Store Kid and his previous album The Skinny, he seems to have discovered a new muse. By traveling to Mississippi and recording with members of the storied Dickinson and Burnside families (as well as the equally-talented Alvin Youngblood Hart), Siegal has created some of the most vital and entertaining music of his lengthy career. Going for more of a Memphis soul heartbeat than its Delta-dirty predecessor, Candy Store Kid is a career milestone and a heck of a lot of fun.

Janiva Magness – 'Stronger For It' (Alligator Records)

Janiva Magness's Stronger For It
Photo courtesy Alligator Records

It's no secret that Janiva Magness is one of our favorite blues singers, a contemporary mix of Etta James and Koko Taylor with an enormous charisma all her own. Of her latest masterwork, Guest Author Steve Pick wrote "Janiva Magness could sing just about anything you could name and it would be a pleasure to hear. But the care in which she wrote or chose material for this new album makes Stronger For It one of the most exciting records to appear so far this year." Believe it...

Joe Louis Walker – 'Hellfire' (Alligator Records)

Joe Louis Walker's Hellfire
Photo courtesy Alligator Records

Singer, songwriter, and guitarist Joe Louis Walker has consistently delivered the goods, and his 2012 effort Hellfire is certainly no different. Traveling down to Nashville to work with noted producer Tom Hambridge, Walker has delivered a career-making album. In my review, I write "the guitarist has entered a new phase in his career with Hellfire, reaching fresh creative peaks with an album that will stand as a milestone in Walker's impressive and deep catalog of music. Hambridge's steady production captures every nuance and stroke of Walker's talents, but it is the guitarist himself who brings life, love, and the blues to these wonderful performances."

Lil' Ed & the Blues Imperials – 'Jump Start' (Alligator Records)

Lil' Ed & the Blues Imperials' Jump Start
Photo courtesy Alligator Records

Lil' Ed & the Blues Imperials have become Chicago blues institutions by delivering audiences exactly what they want, night after night, without fail for a quarter-century now. As Guest Author Steve Pick points out in his review, "Jump Start is another joyous, raucous, and downright pleasurable album from a band that just doesn’t know how to do anything else. Their records can’t reveal all the dynamic showmanship of Lil’ Ed Williams on stage, but they don’t need to do so." If you're looking for a good time, look no further than Jump Start!

Lurrie Bell – 'The Devil Ain't Got No Music' (Aria BG Records)

Lurrie Bell's The Devil Ain't Got No Music
Photo courtesy Aria BG Records

The career of legendary blues guitarist Lurrie Bell has certainly had its ups and downs, but there's no doubting that the man has made some great music. Bell's latest, The Devil Ain't Got No Music, masterfully blends blues and gospel, prompting Guest Author Steve Pick to write "whether you share Bell’s religious beliefs or not, the achievement of The Devil Ain’t Got No Music is one of pure musical bliss. Lurrie Bell displays prodigious talent throughout, and he is aided and abetted by some equally fine players. The song choices are an intriguing blend of familiar and obscure, and the arrangements are entirely unique to Bell. This is an album which will haunt your ears for a long time."

Michael "Iron Man" Burks – 'Show of Strength' (Alligator Records)

Michael "Iron Man" Burks' Show of Strength
Photo courtesy Alligator Records

The blues world lost a major talent in Michael "Iron Man" Burks when the 54-year-old guitarist died unexpectedly in May 2012. Burks had all but finished his fourth Alligator Records release at the time of his death. The apex of a career cut short far too soon, Show of Strength is a career-making milestone of an album, which makes me all the more angry that it's also the last music we'll ever hear from the talented singer, songwriter, and guitarist. Throughout it all, Burks' performance shines like a supernova, both his singing and guitar playing displaying great confidence, elegance, and melody, the man obviously pouring everything he had into Show of Strength.

Mud Morganfield – 'Son Of The Seventh Son' (Severn Records)

Mud Morganfield's Son Of The Seventh Son
Photo courtesy Severn Records

The Reverend wrote in Blues Revue magazine, "with the release of Son of the Seventh Son, Morganfield takes a giant step in establishing his own musical identity. First, let us address the giant-sized, blue-hued elephant sitting on a stool in the corner of the room...while Morganfield sounds somewhat like his legendary father, and maybe even a little like his younger brother Big Bill Morganfield, his style of blues is entirely his own...with one foot firmly in tradition and his eye on the horizon, Mud Morganfield has delivered a strong opening statement in what promises to be a lengthy and productive career."

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