The 31st Blues Music Awards were presented in Memphis, TN Thursday, May 6, 2010 at the Cook Convention Center Ballroom and Tommy Castro emerged as the story of the night, winning in all four of the categories in which he was nominated to lead all winners. In addition to going four-for-four, Castro took home awards in some of the biggest categories of the evening including B.B. King Entertainer of the Year and Band of the Year for he and his Tommy Castro Band. His other two wins represented a sweep of the Contemporary Blues categories for both artist and album.
Other multi-award winners included Derek Trucks, who won as Instrumentalist-Guitar Player of the Year as well as Blues-Rock Album for his Already Free and Louisiana Red who won as Acoustic Artist of the Year and also picked up honors for Acoustic Album Of The Year with David Maxwell for their You Got To Move.
Joe Louis Walker was nominated for five awards — the most of any nominee — and took home only one, but what an award: Album of the Year for Between A Rock And The Blues.
In addition to the standard categories presented year in and year out, there were two special awards presented at the 31st BMAs. Traditional Blues Female Artist of the Year has been handed out for years but Thursday night marked a turning point for the award it was renamed in honor of the legendary Koko Taylor. Taylor passed away shortly after making what would be her final public performance at the 30th Blues Music Awards. She'd been for years known as the Queen of the Blues and her place in blues — and music history — was further cemented as her name was added to the award. Ms. Taylor's daughter, Cookie, was on hand to pay tribute to her mother as well as to present the inaugural award to Debbie Davies.
The other big honor of the night was a Lifetime Achievement Award presented to Buddy Guy by Bonnie Raitt. Guy's acceptance speech was brief and the boisterous, piercing voice so familiar to blues listeners was replaced by a subdued one that was briefly choked up. He regained his fire, however, leading off an incendiary version of "Damn Right I've Got The Blues" before mysteriously leaving the stage before the song's end.
As with any awards show, the acceptance speeches sometimes become the news of the night. Soul Blues Male Artist Curtis Salgado took a while to get to the stage — I have no idea where he was sitting — but once he made it there to accept his award it was evident how touched he was by the honor. Also clearly caught up in the moment was Jason Ricci, who won the award for Instrumentalist-Harmonica. Ricci was (probably) the youngest winner of the night and some youthful exuberance was evident in his acceptance speech. While it may have been a bit shocking for some, there were also moments of real class as he thanked and congratulated by name the other four harmonica players nominated with him, acknowledging that discovering those players at 14-years old brought him to the stage that night as well as acknowledging the love and friendship of Nick and Kate Moss.
This was my first trip to Memphis and to the Blues Music Awards and there is way too much to retell in just one story, so let's call this Part 1 with more to follow. We still have to discuss the performances, the shoulders I rubbed against, as well as how my ballot compares to the winners list below:
Album of the Year
Joe Louis Walker
Between a Rock and the Blues
Band of the Year
Tommy Castro Band
B.B. King Entertainer of the Year
Acoustic Album of the Year
David Maxwell & Louisiana Red – You Got to Move
Acoustic Artist of the Year
Best New Artist Debut
Tiger in your Tank
Contemporary Blues Album of the Year
Contemporary Blues Female Artist of the Year
Contemporary Blues Male Artist of the Year
Song of the Year
Cyril Neville & Mike Zito
'Pearl River' (Pearl River–Mike Zito)
Soul Blues Album of the Year
Ace Of Spades
Soul Blues Female Artist of the Year
Soul Blues Male Artist of the Year
Traditional Blues Album of the Year
Koko Taylor Traditional Blues Female Artist of the Year
Traditional Blues Male Artist of the Year
It Ain't Over! Delmark Celebrates 55 Years of Blues, Live at Buddy Guy's Legends
Historical Album of the Year
Chess –Authorized Bootleg (Muddy Waters)
Rock Blues Album of the Year
Derek Trucks Band
Buckwheat Zydeco (accordion)
Pinetop Perkins Piano Player