At last, we have arrived at the big moment. The bags are packed, GPS is programmed and the car is (mostly) loaded. I have a few more odds and ends to line up but then it's on to Memphis and the 2010 Blues Music Awards tomorrow night at the Cook Convention Center. Those of you not lucky enough to attend can still join me there. The 31st Blues Music Awards will be broadcast LIVE in it's entirety on SiriusXM's "Bluesville". The next best thing to being there! The event brings together blues performers, industry reps and fans from all over the world to celebrate the best in blues recordings and performances from the previous year. Not a subscriber? Get a free 30-day VIP pass and take a listen to all the goodness I am witnessing firsthand.
But first… tonight… Nick Moss & The Flip Tops at the Rum Boogie Cafe on Beale Street for the 2nd Annual Nick Moss All-Star Jam. EPIC, people. Epic. Among those who joined Nick Moss & The Flip Tops last year: National Treasure Lurrie Bell, Bob Stroger, Willie "Big Eyes" Smith, Curtis Salgado, Jimi Bott, Terry Hanck, Jason Ricci, Steve Guyger, Clarence Spady, Billy Gibson, Rich DelGrosso, and Benny Yee. Who knows who will be there tonight? I've included a clip at the end of this article of some footage from last year's inaugural jam.
We also have another detail to take care of and that is my ballot selections for the Album of the Year and Song of the Year. Let's first take a look at the song of the year nominees:
- Cyril Neville & Mike Zito “Pearl River” (Pearl River–Mike Zito)
- James “Super Chikan” Johnson “Fred's Dollar Store” (Chikadelic–Super Chikan)
- Joe Louis Walker “I'm Tide” (Between a Rock and the Blues–Joe Louis Walker)
- John Hahn & Oliver Wood “Never Going Back to Memphis” (Never Going Back–Shemekia Copeland)
- Vyasa Dodson “At Least I'm Not With You” (At Least I'm Not With You–The Insomniacs)
Wow are there some good ones in that category. Shemekia Copeland is always a pleasure to listen to and I voted for her as my Contemporary Blues Female Artist of the Year. When it came to song, though, I trusted my iPod a bit and went with the nominee I listened to most and that was Joe Louis Walker's "I'm Tide." I'm not going to regurgitate my review of the song (but I'd love it if you went back and read it). I will, however, tell you that some months after writing that review I still feel the same way about this song. I love Walker's searing lead guitar work. The lyrics have a sense of humor about them and Walker delivers that and more in the vocal.
For me, Album Of The Year is the category. I don't know if blues fans feel that way at the BMAs because there are so many other aspects of the music and tradition that are honored — Entertainer of the Year, Band of the Year, Instrumentalists Of The Year — but for me, it's all about producing the best new music year in and year out. I already have my Muddy Waters box sets and the two Complete Chess Masters packages that have been released. I know it's good. What has the blues done for me lately? That's the thing.
As such, I made damn sure to get all five nominated albums and I spent a lot of time listening to them and considering them and reviewed all of them (those links are below).. Four of the five records nominated all got serious consideration for my vote, . After considering the four remaining I narrowed it down to three and I got stuck.
- Duke Robillard's Jumpin’ Blues Revue – Stomp! the Blues Tonight
- Eddie C. Campbell – Tear This World Up
- Joe Louis Walker – Between a Rock and the Blues
- Louisiana Red & Little Victor's Juke Joint – Back to the Black Bayou
- Various Artists Chicago Blues – A Living History
On the final night before ballots had to be turned in, I was torn between Back To The Blue Bayou, A Living History, and Between A Rock And The Blues. If you read my pieces about how I voted for Acoustic, Contemporary, and Traditional, you probably already see how the process started narrowing down. I didn't forbid myself from voting for Black Bayou just because I voted for Living History in the Traditional Album category but that line of thinking did stay with me. The ease with which I chose Between A Rock in the Traditional Album category made me really give it a long look and the fact I was voting for one of its songs as Song Of The Year also weighed heavily. I was pretty sure that was the direction I wanted to go but I couldn't shake that 2-disc Living History collection from my mind, so I decided I needed to have a "listen off."
I listened to both records one last time and found myself hopelessly deadlocked, so I looked up and down my ballot and came to the following conclusions: Joe Louis Walker got three votes. Louisiana Red got two. The Living History collection included some of my favorite blues songs brilliantly performed by National Treasure Lurrie Bell — yes, you must say the whole thing. Yes, every time — John Primer, Billy Branch, Billy Flynn, and Billy Boy Arnold. I consider it the Best Traditional Blues Album of the Year and I trend towards the traditional. By voting for Chicago Blues – A Living History, I was voting for a great album that honored my favorite tradition in the blues idiom and honored some of the great living bluesmen who keep that tradition alive on this collection and in their own work. As difficult as it was, that final argument carried just enough sway to break the deadlock in my mind, and I cast my ballot for Chicago Blues – A Living History as my Blues Album Of The Year.
Now, on to Memphis and the Rum Boogie: