The holidays are upon us, and your humble Blues Guide is more than happy to provide his recommendations to fulfill your gift-buying needs. Whether you're looking for blues-related goodies for yourself (in which case, print out this list and tack it up somewhere obvious to the person buying your gifts), or you need ideas to buy for the blues music fan on your list, to follow is the Reverend's recommended blues gifts for 2009.
It's not too late to pick up a Blues Images 2010 calendar for your wall, or the wall of a loved one! This blues datebook features a different bit of historic, vintage advertising artwork on the page of each month, as well as important dates like artist's birthdays. The calendar also includes an eighteen-track CD that offers up remastered blues tunes from the 1920s by folks like Charlie Patton, Blind Blake, and Skip James, among others.
There are just a couple of blues music print publications available for fans to expand their knowledge and enjoyment of the music (beyond About.com Blues, of course). Although they all have their charms, I personally prefer the long-running Blues Revue for my paper fix. Blues Revue provides great blues and roots music coverage, in-depth artist interviews, even song notation for those who want to play the blues themselves. Plus, subscribers receive several sampler CDs each year of new music. Full disclosure: the Reverend will be writing for Blues Revue, beginning with the December issue, but I've been a subscriber for years.
Scottish blues-rock fretburner Gary Moore has made the Montreux Jazz Festival a regular stop on his annual tour schedule, and this five-disc Essential Montreux documents five of these performances. Ranging from Moore's 1990 appearance, which features a cameo by guitarist Albert Collins, Essential Montreux includes festival performances from 1995, 1997, 1999, and 2001. Sure, there's some overlaps in songs from one year to the next, and one of the discs falls closer to a hard rock than blues-rock vein, but Moore's talent is staggering, and for the guitar-blues fan on your list, you won't do any better.
For the fledgling harp-blaster on your holiday gift list, this seven-pack of Hohner's Piedmont Blues harmonicas is a sweet deal. You get harps in the keys of G, A, Bb, C, D, E, and F (lowest to highest), with brass reeds, aluminum plates, and a plush-lined nylon carrying case. The recipient of this gift can learn to play in the style of Piedmont blues legend Sonny Terry or, with the included Bb harmonica, play cross-harp in the key of F like Chicago blues giant Little Walter.
If you're a blues guitar fan (and who isn't?), or you have one on your holiday shopping list, look no further than Joe Bonamassa's excellent Live From The Royal Albert Hall DVD. This is a gift that can't fail, as Bonamassa delivers an explosive fretboard showcase that not only succeeds in displaying his enormous talents, but also cements his still-growing reputation as one of the most exciting blues-rock artists of this generation.
Jon Hartley Fox's account of the successes and failures of Cincinnati's King Records label is "must" reading for any fan of 1950s and '60s blues, soul, R&B, and even country music, 'cause King excelled at all these genres. Fox outlines why the label was important, and shares the company's rich musical history with his readers. King of the Queen City is an informative and entertaining read, documenting a vital and important piece of blues music history.
Chicago blues legend Little Walter Jacobs was one of the greatest harpslingers in the history of the blues, and his legacy is based on the groundbreaking, chart-topping recordings that he made for Chess Records during the 1950s. This five-disc set includes everything that Little Walter recorded for the label between 1950 and 1967, 126 songs total, including alternate takes, demos, and various instrumentals. The list of guest stars on these tracks is staggering, and there's a little something of everything here for the blues harp fan.
The Music Maker Relief Foundation does great work, assisting aging blues musicians throughout the Southeast with needed funds to pay the rent, buy some food to eat, and acquire the prescription medicine they need. They also shepherd artists into the studio to capture their talents for posterity, and you can always bet on a Music Maker CD release to be entertaining. They have several gift packages that start at $20 and move up to $145, which help raised needed money for the non-profit and get that person on your list goodies like a 2010 blues calendar, CDs, and their beautiful Music Makers: Portraits and Songs from the Roots of America book.
This beautiful 240-page hardback book collects all of the illustrations from Robert Crumb's acclaimed "Heroes of the Blues," "Early Jazz Greats" and "Pioneers of Country Music" trading card sets between two covers. A labor of love for the infamous underground cartoonist and collector of antique music, Crumb's heartfelt portraits of his favorite blues, jazz, and country/hillbilly musicians are accompanied by text from writers Stephen Calt and David Jasen. The book includes a CD of "old time" music hand-picked by Crumb himself.
10. Rolling Stones – 'Get Yer Ya-Ya's Out!' CD Box Set
This 40th anniversary deluxe edition of the Rolling Stones' classic first live album has become the new gold standard for archival box sets. Including three CDs and a DVD, the box expands on the original single-disc release with a disc of additional acoustic performances from the two-night performance. A third disc features a dozen previously unreleased tracks from opening acts B.B. King and Ike and Tina Turner. The DVD includes video footage, interviews, and more while a 56-page collector's book will have Stones fans salivating with glee.