It's time once again for the Blues Power Ranking 6-Pack, a feature within the feature that is Verse Chorus Verse. You know what the news is. This is the analysis portion of our program wherein I help you find the best of the best. Here are six songs from six albums on the Blues Power Rankings, the best source of what's hot at blues radio.
1) Smokin' Joe Kubek & Bnois King – "Have Blues, Will Travel" – Have Blues, Will Travel: Love, love, love this title track from the latest offering from Kubek & King. This spirited, Texas-roadhouse style raveup is a creative spin on the ramblin' blues lifestyle. The tale is well told and accompanied by some blazing guitar.
2) Derek Trucks Band – "Down Don't Bother Me" – Roadsongs: Speaking of blazing guitar, you have Derek Trucks. I didn't vote for Trucks to win Guitarist of The Year at the BMAs but I'm not deaf; this is one of the finest young guitarists on the planet. "Down Don't Bother Me" has been recorded innumerable times and Trucks' mesmerizing lead makes this version one of the best you'll hear.
3) Karen Lovely – "Never Felt No Blues" – Still The Rain: I first learned of Karen Lovely after she placed second at the International Blues Challenge last year. I first heard her sing in an impromptu jam at Rum Boogie Café in Memphis and I took notice when I saw she had a new record coming out this year, wondering if she, like so many before her, would use the IBC as a springboard forward. Finding a copy of the CD isn't easy, but iTunes and Amazon both have the album if you can stand digital. Reluctantly I gave in and did the download. It's not my favorite medium but Lovely made it worth my while all the same. She has a powerhouse, passionate voice and on "Never Felt No Blues" she has complete control of it, delivering just the right amount of intensity. She's backed by a great band with some excellent lead guitar and nice piano work. I just hope she one day gets some better distribution.
4) Janiva Magness – "Feeling Good" – The Devil Is An Angel, Too: Written by Anthony Newley and Leslie Bricusse for a 1964 musical, this song has become a standard covered by everyone from the legendary Nina Simone to more contemporary artists like George Michael and My Brightest Diamond. Janiva gives this one a shot and does a mighty fine job with it. Magness' pacing is a little on the quick side, allowing her to sing it fluidly without giving in to the temptation to oversing and it works. She opens a capella before acoustic guitar-led accompaniment kicks in. This isn't the definitive version of the song but it's more than respectable and well suited for Magness' voice.
5) Rob Stone – "Dragon Killers" – Back Around Here: Rob Stone resists the temptation to weigh his songs down with self-indulgent solos, so an instrumental track like "Dragon Killers" is a welcome inclusion on the record. On "Dragon Killers," the dam breaks and Stone puts his signature harp sound front and center.
6) Tim Woods (feat. Honeyboy Edwards) – "Bad Whiskey & Cocaine" – The Blues Sessions: Earlier this week we celebrated the 97th birthday of the great Joe Willie "Pinetop" Perkins, one of the last of the great Delta bluesmen. I say one of the last because believe it or not there is another nonagenarian bluesman who still travels and records. David "Honeyboy" Edwards ran briefly with Robert Johnson and traveled the United States as a hobo and traveling bluesman. On Tim Woods' The Blues Sessions, Honeyboy contributes to a couple of songs including this one. Edwards' age works for him on this song. Rather than sounding like a fire-and-brimstone preacher or a Nancy Reagan "Just Say No" type, Edwards sounds like a man who has lived long enough and hard enough to see where bad whiskey and cocaine take you. History is more than names and dates- you have to learn the lessons that come with them.