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British Blues Awards 2011

Oli Brown & Joanne Shaw Taylor the big winners in this year's event


Joanne Shaw Taylor

Joanne Shaw Taylor

Photo by Liz MacKinder, courtesy Ruf Records

The winners of the 2010 British Blues Awards were announced on Sunday, September 11, 2011 at the Newark Blues Festival in Nottinghamshire, England. Launched in 2010 with the insight that traditional awards programs like the Grammy Awards virtually 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 2011 British Blues Awards, expanded to include several new categories this year.

Best Male Vocalist: Ian Siegal
Over the course of the past decade, the Ian Siegal Band has become a U.K. blues music institution. Fronted by the talented singer, songwriter, and guitarist Siegal, who formerly toured as a duo with Big Bill Morganfield, the band has four albums to its credit, including 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 ongoing blues tradition.

Best Female Vocalist: Joanne Shaw Taylor
Songwriter of the Year: Joanne Shaw Taylor
Taylor's 2009 debut album, White Sugar, certainly raised an eyebrow or two after its release, but the talented guitarist's critically-acclaimed 2010 release, Diamonds In The Dirt, raised the bar significantly, displaying Taylor's maturing songwriting skills alongside her fiery fretwork. Although Shaw has relocated to Detroit, she remains a favorite in the U.K. and often tours her homeland to sold-out crowds. This is Taylor's second British Blues Award as "Best Female Vocalist." Taylor also won the inaugural Kevin Thorpe Memorial Award as "Songwriter of the Year" for her track "Same As It Never Was" from Diamonds In The Dirt.

Best Blues Band: Oli Brown Band
Best Blues Album: Oli Brown Band's Heads I Win, Tails You Lose
Oli Brown, last year's "Best Male Vocalist," takes the "Best Blues Band" award this year for his tight-as-a-drum outfit. The band's sound is anchored by the talented guitarist and vocalist Brown, who was a mere 17 years of age when he blew away U.K. and European blues fans with Open Road, his critically-acclaimed 2008 debut. Pursuing a style that is influenced by both Jimi Hendrix and the classic blues of masters like Albert King, Brown has earned praise from folks like Joe Bonamassa and Walter Trout. Brown's 2010 sophomore album, Heads I Win, Tails You Lose, cements the guitarist's status as one of the bright young stars of the British blues scene, earning the "Best Blues Album" award for the year.

Best Harmonica Player: Paul Jones
Best Blues Broadcaster: Paul Jones
Lifetime Achievement Award: Paul Jones
Veteran British bluesman Paul Jones began his career blowing the harp behind the legendary "Father of British Blues," Alexis Korner, before joining Manfred Mann as the band's singer for much of its 1960s hitmaking era. Jones returned to his blues roots with the Blues Band during the 1980s, and released an acclaimed solo "comeback" album, Starting All Over Again, in 2009. This is his second "Best Harmonica Player" award. Jones is also a popular radio deejay, taking the "Best Blues Broadcaster" award for his BBC Radio Two program, and he was honored this year with a "Lifetime Achievement Award" for his contributions to British blues over the past five decades.

Best Blues Guitarist: Matt Schofield
Matt Schofield's 2009 album Heads, Tails & Aces was a brilliant example of guitar-driven British blues-rock, but his 2011 release Anything But Time served as a brilliant introduction to the talented guitarist for U.S. audiences. 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. Schofield's second straight "Best Blues Guitarist" award has earned him a well-deserved reputation as Britain's leading blues guitarist.

Best Bass Player: Andy Graham
Andy Graham has been a part of the Ian Siegal Band for ten years now, his hearty bass lines driving the band's lively rhythms and earning the talented instrumentalist his second "Best Bass Player" award.

Best Drummer: Wayne Proctor
The former drummer for bluesman Aynsley Lister has played behind a veritable "who's who" of U.K. blues talent. These days, Wayne Proctor backs up guitarist Oli Brown, and takes his first "Best Drummer" award.

Best Keyboard Player: Jonny Henderson
He's been with guitarist Matt Schofield since the beginning, Johnny Henderson adding his lively Hammond organ sound behind Schofield's scorching fretwork, also handling the deep bass lines for the Schofield's unique guitar/keyboards/drums instrumental trio.

Best Instrumentalist: Son Henry
The best instrumentalist in British blues for the second year in a row 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 Young Artist: Chantel McGregor
Recognizing the up-and-coming talent that serves to bring new fire and ideas to the British blues scene, this year's "Best Young Artist" award goes to guitarist Chantel McGregor, who has impressed blues fans with her 2011 debut album, Like No Other, a collection that includes nine original songs and three inspired covers, including Sonny Boy Williamson's "Help Me" and Robin Trower's "Daydream."

Best Overseas Artist: Joe Bonamassa
Acclaimed American blues-rock guitarist Joe Bonamassa continues to build upon his popularity with British blues audiences, both as a solo artist and as part of the classic rock supergroup Black Country Communion.

Best Blues Festival: The Great British Rhythm & Blues Festival
The Great British Rhythm & Blues Festival gets the nod this year as the best blues event in the U.K.

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. Check with the British Blues Awards website for more details.

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