So here it is and here we are. The 31st Blues Music Awards will be presented tonight at the Cook Convention Center, being broadcast live on XM Radio's Bluesville channel for those of you around the world unable to attend yourself. More than 25 nominated bands will take to the stage as the hardware is handed out to the best in the blues from the past year. In addition, Blues Hall of Famer Bonnie Raitt will present a Lifetime Achievement Award to Buddy Guy, who will also perform.
Over the past two weeks, I've revealed much of my BMA ballot and right now I'm going to present my ballot in its entirety and quickly mention a few of the awards I didn't get a chance to hit on at greater length. If you want to read about my voting process for some of these other categories, you can find those stories here at Blogcritics (Acoustic, Contemporary, Traditional, Band of The Year, Album Of The Year).
The categories I haven't yet hit are the Soul Blues categories and the Instrumentalists. Let's begin quickly with the Soul Blues category. Last night, Nick Moss & The Flip Tops hosted their second annual All-Star Jam and the evening lived up to its billing. I lost track of all the people who performed with Nick & Co. but here are just a few of them: Dave Maxwell, Dave Keller, and Eugene Bridges for starters. Then, fresh from being inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame a few hours earlier, Charlie Musselwhite took the stage and was joined by Duke Robillard and 96-year old Pinetop Perkins. The 96-year old would have stayed all night, too. He didn't want to leave. It was incredible. Later, Curtis Salgado came up and sang with the band and reinforced my decision to vote for him as Soul Blues Male Artist of the Year. If you've never heard him sing, you need to. He was a powerhouse last night!
The instrumental categories are always tough to pick. Every person nominated for the Guitarist of The Year should win the award. For me it came down to the great Ronnie Earl and National Treasure Lurrie Bell. I love listening to both of these men play. If you want to put it in terms of "best," Earl might be as talented and expressive as any guitarist in any genre. Lurrie Bell is special to me. There's something about the way he plays (and sings). Both men have lived through some hard times and it comes through in their playing, but there is something about that deep well from which Bell draws that caused me to cast my ballot for him. I hope Ronnie will forgive me. It was really tough.
Moving to the rhythm section, we have our drummer and bassist categories. Also appearing at The Jam last night was bassist Patrick Rynn. Bass guitar is an easily overlooked and misunderstood instrument in many idioms. The blues has some standard rhythm structures and if you want to play bass, you better be able to do those in your sleep. What sets great bass players apart are those who can do something besides knock those off and can provide that deep rhythmic structure of a song while soloists go crazy over the top of them. If you're going to build a house, you can build it on the foundations Rynn lays down. Drummer of the Year was easy for me: Kenny "Beady Eyes" Smith. The son of the legendary Willie "Big Eyes" Smith, Kenny is an in-demand session drummer for just about every blues outfit and solo act in and beyond Chicago. Smith is also part of the Cash Box Kings contingent. My thinking is that if everyone wants him to play for them, he's got to be all right. And he is.
Just as with guitar, harmonica is another instrument in the blues where there are too many greats to honor just one. I went back and forth on this at least 11 times before settling on Jason Ricci.
The other instrumentalist I want to mention is , nominated for his extraordinary abilities on the mandolin. You've all heard me many times laud Hundt and declare my newfound undying love for Chicago blues played on mandolin. I have no sense of who will walk away with the Instrumentalist-Other trophy tonight but this was another category where there was only one answer for me.
So here it is: this is my 2010 BMA Ballot. My thanks to all of you, dear readers, for following me along. I've been writing at Blogcritics for nearly six years now and these annual pieces are probably the most fun I have all year. Thanks for letting me share this with you. Stay tuned this weekend and next week as I return with the results and the stories that go with them.
Acoustic Album of the Year
Samuel James||For Rosa, Maeve and Noreen
Acoustic Artist of the Year
Album of the Year
Various Artists||Chicago Blues A Living History
B.B. King Entertainer of the Year
Band of the Year
Nick Moss & the Flip Tops
Best New Artist Debut
Joanne Shaw Taylor||White Sugar
Contemporary Blues Album of the Year
Joe Louis Walker||Between a Rock and the Blues
Contemporary Blues Female Artist of the Year
Contemporary Blues Male Artist of the Year
Joe Louis Walker
Delmark Records||It Ain't Over! Delmark Celebrates 55 Years of Blues, Live at Buddy Guy's Legends
Historical Album of the Year
Big James Montgomery
Gerry Hundt (mandolin)
Pinetop Perkins Piano Player
Rock Blues Album of the Year
Tinsley Ellis||Speak No Evil
Song of the Year
Joe Louis Walker||'I'm Tide' (Between a Rock and the Blues–Joe Louis Walker)
Soul Blues Female Artist of the Year
Soul Blues Male Artist of the Year
Traditional Blues Album of the Year
Various Artists||Chicago Blues A Living History
Traditional Blues Female Artist of the Year
Traditional Blues Male Artist of the Year