The winners of the inaugural 2010 British Blues Awards were announced on September 11, 2010 at the Newark Blues Festival in Nottinghamshire, England. With the understanding that traditional awards programs like the Grammys pay little or no attention to blues music, these awards were launched to recognize the contribution of British blues artists and musicians to the evolution and longevity of the blues. Here are the winners of the 2010 British Blues Awards.
Best Male Vocalist: Oli Brown
Best Young Artist: Oli Brown
Talented blues guitarist and vocalist was only 17 years old when he burst onto the U.K. blues scene with Open Road, his critically-acclaimed debut album. In the couple of years since, Brown has honed his talents through major festival appearances and touring with veterans like Johnny Winter and Walter Trout. Producer Mike Vernon – who worked with Eric Clapton and the Bluesbreakers, Savoy Brown, and others during the 1960s – was so impressed by Brown's talent that he came out of retirement to helm the guitarist's sophomore album, Heads I Win Tales You Lose, which was released during the summer of 2010.
Best Female Vocalist: Joanne Shaw Taylor
Since the release of White Sugar, her acclaimed 2009 debut album, Joanne Shaw Taylor has been knocking 'em dead at blues festival appearances across the United States and Europe. Truth is, Taylor has been banging on the door for the better part of a decade, and while she's only in her mid-20s, she sings and plays with a maturity far older than her tender years. Dave Stewart of the Eurythmics, who worked on the Deep Blues film, said of Taylor when she was but 16, "I heard something I thought I would never hear: a British white girl playing blues guitar so deep and passionately it made the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end!"
Best Blues Band: Ian Siegel Band
The Ian Siegal Band is almost a state-secret in the U.K. Fronted by the talented guitarist Siegal, who has toured as a duo with Big Bill Morganfield, the band has four albums under its collective belts, the most recent being 2009's Broadside. Heavily influenced by bluesmen like Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf, Siegal learned his craft the old-fashioned way, by playing in the streets (busking) of Berlin before returning to England to form his first band in Nottingham. Today the Ian Siegel Band is based in London, where they've become a treasured part of the country's deep blues tradition.
Best Harmonica Player: Paul Jones
Veteran British bluesman Paul Jones began his career blowing the harp behind the legendary Alexis Korner before joining Manfred Mann as the band's singer for much of the 1960s. During the ensuing years, Jones has pursued acting with some success on both the stage and screen; re-embraced his blues roots with the Blues Band during the 1980s; and released an acclaimed solo album, Starting All Over Again, in 2009.
Best Guitar Player: Matt Schofield
Best Blues Album: Matt Schofield's Heads, Tails & Aces
We've written about blues guitar maestro Matt Schofield before, his 2009 album Heads, Tails & Aces a brilliant example of guitar-driven British blues-rock. Influenced by folks like B.B. King and Stevie Ray Vaughan, Schofield has forged a style that is entirely his own, bringing both King's jazzy elegance and Vaughan's raw electric blues style to his distinctive sound. Britain's Guitar & Bass Magazine voted him one of the "Top Ten British Blues Guitarists of Al Time," ranking Schofield alongside such legends as Eric Clapton and Peter Green. Already a star in his homeland, Schofield is on the brink of a major U.S. breakthrough.
Best Bass Player: Andy Graham
Graham has been a part of the Ian Siegal Band for ten years now, his hearty bass lines driving the band's lively rhythms.
Best Keyboard Player: Jonny Henderson
Known around the U.K. as the "King of the Hammond Organ," keyboardist Jonny Henderson is the 'go-to guy' for a bunch of British blues artists, pounding the 88s for folks like Ian Siegal, Matt Schofield, and the Forster-King Band, among others.
Best Drummer: Simon Dring
A 25-year veteran of the British blues scene, drummer Simon Dring hooked up with guitarist Oli Brown in the beginning of the young musician's career. In the three years they've been together, Dring has contributed significantly to Brown's sound and musical development.
Best Instrumentalist: Son Henry
The best instrumentalist in British blues this year is Alaskan-born Son Henry, who lives in Scotland and received British citizenship. A gifted lap-steel player, Henry fronts the popular Son Henry & the East Side Kings band.
Best Blues Festival: Blues On The Farm
The fans have spoken and chosen the annual Blues On The Farm festival as the year's best!
Best Overseas Artist: Joe Bonamassa
No surprise here considering that U.S. born fretburner Joe Bonamassa had a monster year in the U.K. during 2009, headlining at the Royal Albert Hall and delivering several incendiary blues sets at a number of British blues festivals during 2009 and 2010.
The British Blues Awards are sponsored by the Nottingham Blues Society and voted on by blues fans across the U.K. on the organization's website. This year over 1,300 artists and bands were nominated in the 13 categories and voted on by over 5,000 blues fans. Check with the British Blues Awards website for more details.