So-called pundits that wouldn't know their Magic Sam from their Magic Slim have been proclaiming the death of the blues for eons now. The truth of the matter is that blues music carries on, and the rise of talents like John Nemeth, Eric Lindell, and Watermelon Slim over the past decade proves that fresh blood and talent will keep the blues alive. Here are six young blues talents to watch during the coming year.
Of guitarist Damon Fowler's Blind Pig Records debut, yours truly wrote in Blurt magazine, "Sugar Shack reminds a lot of the mid-‘70s halcyon days of Southern rock, when a bunch of long-haired country boys could mix British Invasion-inspired rock with Hank's hellbilly twang and Muscle Shoals soul and, if not dominate the charts and radio, at least give those Yanks and Brits a run for their money." Since that time, Fowler has received widespread critical acclaim for Sugar Shack and begun making the circuit of blues clubs and festivals in order to get his music out there. A skilled guitarist capable of calling down both thunder and lightning, expect to hear more from Fowler in the years to come.
Another young guitarslinger, Dave Gross has won the praise of such six-string talents as Duke Robillard (who calls him a "monster blues player") and the legendary Hubert Sumlin ("He can play, man! That boy can smoke!"), as well as critical acclaim from publications like Blues Revue and BluesWax for his 2007 album Crawling The Walls. A Blues Music Award "Best New Artist" nominee, Gross is ready to take the next step and bring his talents to an eager blues community that is always happy to welcome another talented, creative guitar player into the fold.
When guitarist Ronnie Earl needed somebody to sing on his latest album, Living In The Light, he called upon Vermont blues vocalist Dave Keller to bring the soul to his songs. Perhaps the oldest artist on this list, Keller has been performing both solo and with his band for almost two decades in the New England area. With the release of Play For Love, Keller's great new album, it's time for the gifted soul-blues vocalist to take center stage and earn the audience he deserves with his skilled songwriting and powerful vocals.
Her label biography says that Gina Sicilia began singing at the age of three years old, and that she hasn't stopped since. Although we can't verify that claim, we can say that Sicilia is one of the best female soul-blues vocalists on the blues scene today. Her two albums, including 2009's Hey Sugar, have earned her universal praise and more than a few accolades. What sets her above many of her contemporaries is a powerful voice steeped in the doo-wop and soul of her native Philadelphia, Sicilia sounding like a throwback to the great blues and R&B vocalists of the 1950s and '60s. Did I mention that she's also developing into a pretty darn good songwriter?
With two critically-acclaimed albums under their young belts, these blues-rockin' siblings – the Perry brothers Ryan and Kyle, and little sister Taya – have already made quite a splash in the world of blues. They placed second out of over 100 participants in the 2007 International Blues Challenge, and their debut album Pay Me No Mind earned them a Blues Music Award nomination, the youngest band to ever receive the honor. As good as their albums have been, though, it's the Homemade Jamz Blues Band live show that has been winning over fans wherever the three talented young musicians perform…and with none of the three old enough to vote yet, they're only going to get even better from here!
Fiery guitarist J.P. Soars and his swinging band the Red Hots took first place in the 25th annual International Blues Challenge, held in Memphis in January 2009, beating out over 160 other contestants from around the world. Soars also individually won the event's Albert King Award, which established him as the best guitar player in the competition. They've recently released their own self-produced album, Back Of My Mind, which features plenty of Soars' incendiary fretwork on a mix of original tunes and inspired covers. Until they secure a label deal, J.P. Soars & the Red Hots remain the best unsigned band in the blues.