The 2010 Blues Music Awards are this Thursday in Memphis. I'm excited enough that my bags have theoretically been packed for ages. If only my organizational skills matched my enthusiasm. I still have nothing to wear to this thing. Rumor has it I'm considering wearing a tie. I'd say don't hold your breath but anything is possible. As the biggest night for the blues approaches, I've been sharing with all of you, dear readers, the ballot I cast. Who did I vote for and why? Today's epistle shall cover Blues Band Of The Year, the B.B. King Entertainer of The Year, and Best New Artist Debut.
In the other pieces I've written about my ballot — Acoustic, Contemporary, Traditional — I've tried to maintain some semblance of suspense through the article by withholding my vote until the very end of it. The first thing I did after renewing my Blues Foundation membership and opening my 2010 BMA ballot was scroll down the list to find the Band Of The Year category. There is no suspense here because there was no conflict here. That's not a slam against the nominees I didn't vote for — they're great. Blues Band of The Year was the easiest vote for me because I didn't even attempt objectivity or careful consideration.
I remember telling friends in 2004 the reason I wasn't watching any of the presidential debates between Sen. John Kerry and President Bush was because I pay attention; skipping those insipid debates was my reward for doing my homework year 'round. It's a similar thing here. The reason I didn't have to agonize over my ballot is because I've already put my time in. There's a reason I allowed the fan in me to dive in with reckless abandon. There's only one nominee in this category for me and that is Nick Moss & The Flip Tops.
Tommy Castro is wonderful and I really like Hard Believer. Duke Robillard is blues royalty. I'm not 100 percent sure but I think The Mannish Boys have been nominated in this category every single year since I started following these awards in 2007! All these bands deserve to win. Can I tell you with a clear conscience Nick Moss & The Flip Tops deserve it more? Yes! But that doesn't matter because that's not why I did this.
Yes, I'm in the tank for them but it happened over a period of three years. I own all eight of their records and I have spent a lot of time listening to them. I've seen them live. I'm going to see them live the night before the BMAs. I'm coming out to see them again when they come to Huntsville a week later, and I'm spreading the word to friends, family, and strangers. This is no accident. I voted for Nick Moss & The Flip Tops on purpose and did it for a reason. These guys bring the power night after night after night. They never let me down. Nick and his band have been nominated 16 times at the BMAs but that first win has proved elusive. That has to end and this needs to be the year.
With the cheerleading now complete, let's move on to our B.B. King Entertainer of The Year.
B.B. King Entertainer
- Candye Kane
- Magic Slim
- Rick Estrin
- Super Chikan
- Taj Mahal
- Tommy Castro
I had some trouble with this one. I haven't seen any of these six artists live. I am familiar with all of them to different degrees and I suspect I might think differently after the BMAs where several of these artists are likely to perform. I quickly narrowed the field down to names that have special resonance for me: Taj Mahal and Magic Slim. It hurt to edge Super Chikan and Castro out but I had to get down to one choice. After talking to some blues friends, I pulled the trigger for the great Magic Slim.
The Best New Artist Debut category had some really strong entrants and that gives me so much hope and anticipation for the future of the blues. There are some great veteran acts with many miles left to travel and there is a new generation of talent that has heard the call and responded with some seriously inspired music.
Best New Artist Debut
- Greg Nagy – Walk That Fine Thin Line
- Joanne Shaw Taylor – White Sugar
- Marquise Knox – Man Child
- Monkey Junk – Tiger In Your Tank
- The California Honeydrops – Soul Tub!
I would like to reveal my selection for Best New Artist Debut in the form of an open letter to Jeff Beck.
Dear Mr. Jeff Beck,
The next time you need a young, soulful, female singer for one of your records, please don't call Joss Stone. There is another, better option and yes, like Stone, she's British. Even though her playing guitar on one of your records is about as necessary as you playing on Buddy Guy's Damn Right, I've Got The Blues, she's got strong enough chops you might find it fun.
I know it's snarky to say Joanne Shaw Taylor is what Joss Stone wants to sound like, and I'm (almost) sorry. Actually I am sorry and I do apologize. To Taylor. The young woman stands on her own. She can sing and she can play, mixing soul singing with Texas blues playing.
My only "knock" is while listening to her record I sometimes felt I knew her CD collection a little too well. I heard the Stone similarity pretty quickly (and like Taylor better). As a player, she sounds like she's listened to a lot of Stevie Ray Vaughan. Her playing is accomplished but sometimes feels a little too familiar. She's a talent and she's only 23. She's also written the collection of songs that make up her White Sugar record. The lyrics are pretty conventional blues fare,but she remains convincing and engaging throughout. I hear loads of talent and sparks of creativity that should allow her to further distinguish herself on future records.