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31st Blues Music Awards Reaction: The Good, Bad, & Ugly

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It is with a real sense of sadness I write what will be the final piece in my series on the 2010 Blues Music Awards until the DVD of the event is released later this year.

We spent months together learning about the nominees so I could fill out my ballot and then talking about who I voted for. We've had a chance to remember the great performances of that night and now know the winners. My votes were not intended to handicap the race or to predict winners but to reflect to the best of my ability the merits of the nominees. Now I'd like to go back and compare my ballot to the winners and see where I agreed and disagreed with the results.

Album of the Year
BMA Winner: Joe Louis Walker – Between a Rock and the Blues
JH Selection: Various Artists – Chicago Blues – A Living History

This was such a tough category for me. I liked all five nominees and loved a few of those records. Between was a very close second to Living History so I'm pretty happy for Joe Louis Walker. It's a great record.

Band of the Year
BMA Winner: Tommy Castro Band
JH Selection: Nick Moss & The Flip Tops

This is my single greatest disappointment of the evening. Nick didn't strike me as being overly broken up about not winning and I don't need his band to win to validate my admiration for his band or his music but it's embarrassingly overdue for the Blues Foundation to recognize what a great band this is.

B.B. King Entertainer of the Year
BMA Winner: Tommy Castro
JH Selection: Magic Slim

I'm happy for Tommy here. I didn't have a strong feel for this category and I can't muster much outrage that Castro took this one even though I went a different direction.

Acoustic Album of the Year
BMA Winner: David Maxwell & Louisiana Red – You Got to Move
JH Selection: Samuel James – For Rosa, Maeve And Noreen

This is another disappointment for me but not a surprise. We like to pretend that commerce and promotion don't come in to play and I don't mean to suggest that Louisiana Red and David Maxwell were somehow undeserving because that's not true. What is true is Samuel James' album didn't have enough promotional muscle and support behind it to get it the consideration it would need to win  and that's a shame because it's a brilliant record that never stood a chance.

Acoustic Artist of the Year
BMA Winner: Louisiana Red
JH Selection: Louisiana Red

Despite my disappointment for Samuel James, this is why I'm not angry about him not winning in the album category. I could have easily voted for Red in both categories and came very close to doing so. I love him and love his record.

Best New Artist Debut
BMA Winner: Monkey Junk – Tiger in your Tank
JH Selection: Joanne Shaw Taylor – White Sugar

I haven't had a chance to listen to Monkey Junk's record, having to settle for streaming and listening to clips. I really like JST and see her as a bright, emerging talent on the scene. I wanted this for her but I won't call this a travesty until I've had more time to listen to Tiger In Your Tank.

Contemporary Blues Album of the Year
BMA Winner: Tommy Castro – Hard Believer
JH Selection: Joe Louis Walker – Between A Rock And The Blues

I disagree here. I split my ballot a time or two so I won't go off about how JLW can win album of the year and lose Contemporary Blues Album of The Year but I'm not happy about it. Between is a much stronger, more consistent listen than Hard Believer.

Contemporary Blues Female Artist of the Year
BMA Winner: Ruthie Foster
JH Selection: Shemekia Copeland

No complaints here. I like Shemekia but Ruthie is deserving.

Contemporary Blues Male Artist of the Year
BMA Winner: Tommy Castro
JH Selection: Joe Louis Walker

Tommy has a reputation as a great ambassador for the blues so giving him this award is less egregious than the album category but I disagree with this as well. Let me stress something, folks: I'm not the least bit anti-Tommy Castro. Voting for one isn't an indictment of the others. Castro seems an amiable bloke and he's not some tuneless hack but I'm not sure I understand this sweep of four major awards.

Song of the Year
BMA Winner: Mike Zito – "Pearl River"
JH Selection: Joe Louis Walker – "I'm Tide"

"Pearl River" is a good tune and deserved this even if I'm partial to the clever, inspired "I'm Tide."

Soul Blues Male Artist of the Year
BMA Winner: Curtis Salgado
JH Selection: Curtis Salgado

This is one of my great joys of the evening. Let me say it loud and proud: I'm a big fan of Curtis Salgado and couldn't be happier for his big win here!

Traditional Blues Album of the Year
BMA Winner: Super Chikan – Chikadelic

JH Selection: Various Artists – Chicago Blues – A Living History

The Chikan has a big swath of supporters and I'm not anti-Chikan but the collection of talent and the quality of the Living History record deserved serious recognition. It was my Album Of The Year and I can't believe it came away empty handed.

Koko Taylor Traditional Blues Female Artist of the Year
BMA Winner: Debbie Davies
JH Selection: Ann Rabson

Davies won on the strength of an instrumental record she released this year. Her pre-show performance was quite strong and she's an excellent player, but I really preferred Ann.  In the end I'm not sure it matters because this year was all about renaming the award and the real winner was Koko Taylor's legacy.

Traditional Blues Male Artist of the Year
BMA Winner: Duke Robillard
JH Selection: Louisiana Red

Red won a couple awards on the night so I'm happy to see Duke break through with one. I'm a bigger fan of him than I was his Stomp! record. I got to watch him onstage at Rum Boogie as well as at the BMAs and the guy is a supreme talent with a great devotion to the swing style of old. Congratulations, Duke.

DVD
BMA Winner: Delmark Records It Ain't Over! Delmark Celebrates 55 Years of Blues, Live at Buddy Guy's Legends
JH Selection: Delmark Records It Ain't Over! Delmark Celebrates 55 Years of Blues, Live at Buddy Guy's Legends

Delmark Records is responsible for some of the best blues records of the past half century and that legacy was honored in the form of this DVD win. I love it and was thrilled with this win.

Historical Album of the Year

BMA Winner: Chess – Authorized Bootleg (Muddy Waters)
JH Selection: Hip-O Select The Complete Chess Masters 1950-1967 (Little Walter)

Bad move, voters. This is a bad Muddy Waters live record. Oh, it's listenable but no one wanting to listen to live Muddy Waters is going to grab this one. This was all about name recognition and major label distribution, if you ask me. Little Walter's set and Freddie King's exhaustive box set were much, much more deserving.  Muddy's legacy is secure without recognizing subpar product from the vaults.

Rock Blues Album of the Year
BMA Winner: Derek Trucks Band – Already Free
JH Selection: Tinsley Ellis – Speak No Evil

I wasn't crazy about this category all the way around. Trucks' win here smacks of commercial credentials more than anything else as it easily outsold the competition. The guy is a phenomenal guitar talent and I'm not going to say an unkind word about him but this album was overly long and the songs weren't special. Trucks is a vital talent but that wasn't what I took from this record.

Instrumentalist-Bass
BMA Winner: Bob Stroger
JH Selection: Patrick Rynn

This one went to the old guard and Stroger is a legendary player who has backed everyone and I really do love him. Rynn is a young pup and his day will come. Listening to him play at Rum Boogie was awesome. He wasn't playing flashy, lead bass but his muscular runs were pulverizing. I became a fan of Rynn after seeing him live.

Instrumentalist-Drums
BMA Winner: Cedric Burnside
JH Selection: Kenny Smith

You can't call this a name recognition thing as the winner and my vote both sport last names familiar to blues listeners. Kenny Smith spent over an hour onstage backing Buddy Guy, Billy Branch, John Primer, Eddie C. Campbell, and more. He's the most in-demand blues drummer in Chicago. If everyone in the Windy City wants him on their record, maybe he ought to win one of these one of these days.

Instrumentalist-Guitar
BMA Winner: Derek Trucks
JH Selection: Lurrie Bell

Okay, this category is impossible. All the men in this category are brilliant players worthy of the award. Bell was a sentimental choice for me with Ronnie Earl a very, very close second. I believe commercial success and name recognition again came into play here, but make no mistake: Derek Trucks is a frightening talent and in no way undeserving but this feels a bit like an attempt at gaining some crossover appeal to listeners outside the blues idiom rather than honoring a true blues guitarist.

Instrumentalist-Harmonica
BMA Winner: Jason Ricci
JH Selection: Jason Ricci

Ricci sure knows how to make an award show splash. His personality is bombastic and probably somewhat polarizing to some. I didn't know much about him until I listened to him play and he can do that in spades. He occasionally borders on playing a few too many notes for my taste but he's got feel and fire. Congratulations, Jason.

Instrumentalist-Other
BMA Winner: Buckwheat Zydeco (accordion)
JH Selection: Gerry Hundt

I knew Gerry wasn't going to win but he should have and I'm not real damn happy about this one. No knock on Buckwheat but Gerry Hundt is a magician with his mandolin (not to mention being a hell of a bassist and harmonica player) and I'm not going to rest until someone recognizes the man's ability.

Pinetop Perkins Piano Player
BMA Winner: Eden Brent
JH Selection: Eden Brent

Eden's new record is one of my most anticipated this year. She's got style and moxie in her playing and I'm very happy to see her honored here.

With that, we temporarily lay to rest the 31st Blues Music Awards. Thank you to all the nominees who fill our ears with music. Congratulations to the winners and fellow nominees alike. To those I voted for that came up short, know that we're right and everyone else was wrong. Don't worry. I won't let that be our little secret. I'll remind everyone when the DVD comes out.

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About Josh Hathaway

  • http://dagoddess.com Joanie

    Regarding Patrick Rynn: told. you. so. Class act that he is, he’s thrilled for Stroger.

    Agree with you on the reasoning why some wins didn’t quite sit well with me, but what are you gonna do? (Try harder to sway public opinion next year! I’ll help)

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/josh-hathaway Josh Hathaway

    I’ll continue to vote and yes, I’ll try to amplify my public campaigning. I’m not one for the tinfoil but if one likes a good conspiracy, one can cook some up with a few of these wins. In the end, I’m going to celebrate for the folks whose wins pleased me and continue to listen to some great music. 2009 was a kickass year for the blues.

    Stroger is a great, legendary sideman and it’s very classy of Patrick to joyfully recognize that. I’m also quite certain that man’s day is coming. The guy can play.

  • http://dagoddess.com Joanie

    Both Patrick and Chris deserve all the recognition they get. They’re more than worthy. If you haven’t yet listened to the new CD, go to their website and revel in the sonic brilliance.

    Next year, we both lobby hard for our faves. :D