Watermelon Slim & The Workers had a much better night at the 2008 Blues Music Awards than they did last year, but Bobby Rush had the biggest night of all when the hardware was handed out in Tunica, MS last night.
For the second straight year, Slim & Co. led the field with six nominations. Last year they were shut out, this year they brought home two trophies in two major categories: Album of the Year (The Wheel Man) and Band of The Year. Slim and the legendary Koko Taylor each took home two trophies while Bobby Rush took home three.
Rush won in the Acoustic and Soul Blues Male categories and his album Raw was the recipient of the Acoustic Album of the Year award.
Taylor took home the Traditional Blues Female Artist and her album Old School was honored with the Traditional Blues Album award.
I'm glad Slim didn't go 0-12 and The Wheel Man is a fantastic record, deserving of the Album of the Year award. I didn't get to hear as wide a cross-section of the nominated artists this year so I can't speak to anyone being "robbed" or "undeserving." Many of the albums and artists I know did well. Bobby Rush's CD is excellent. Koko Taylor is one of the pioneering women of the genre and she came back with a strong effort.
That said, even though I can't say anyone was robbed I am disappointed to see some names absent from the list, mainly those talented artists from Nick and Kate Moss' Blue Bella label. Nick Moss & The Flip Tops' Play it 'Til Tomorrow was one of my Top 10 Albums of 2007. It's a great album filled with great material and outstanding musicianship. Moss is a first-rate guitarist and PiTT was a great album. I'm disappointed to see he wasn't among the winners.
Gerry Hundt's Since Way Back was more fun for me than any record in I don't know how long. Now I love Robert Randolph and you'll never hear me suggest he shouldn't be recognized for his instrumental virtuosity — he's spectacular — but Hundt's mandolin work really impressed me, and he was a sentimental favorite for me in the instrumentalist category. Tommy Castro's Painkiller album won the Contemporary Blues Album of the Year, but it didn't top The Killborn Alley Blues Band's Tear Chicago Down for me.
Those disappointments aside, this is a fine list of winners and evidence that 2008 was a great year for the blues. Bring on '09! Here is the full list of winners:
1. DVD – Kenny Wayne Shepherd – 10 Days Out: Blues from the Backroads
2. Traditional Blues Male Artist – Hubert Sumlin
3. Traditional Blues Female Artist – Koko Taylor
4. Acoustic Artist – Bobby Rush
5. Acoustic Album – Bobby Rush – Raw
6. Pinetop Perkins Piano Player – Honey Piazza
7. Instrumentalist-Guitar – Bob Margolin
8. Soul Blues Male Artist – Bobby Rush
9. Soul Blues Female Artist – Irma Thomas
10. Soul Blues Album – The Holmes Brothers – State of Grace
11. Historical Album – Epic/Legacy – Breakin’ It UP, Breakin’ it DOWN
12. Contemporary Blues Album – Tommy Castro – Painkiller
13. Contemporary Blues Female Artist – Bettye LaVette
14. Contemporary Blues Male Artist – Tab Benoit
15. Instrumentalist-Harmonica – Kim Wilson
16. Instrumentalist-Bass – Bob Stroger
17. Instrumentalist-Drums – Sam Lay
18. Instrumentalist-Horn – Deanna Bogart
19. Instrumentalist-Pedal Steel- Robert Randolph
20. Best New Artist Debut – Diunna Greenleaf & Blue Mercy – Cotton Field to Coffee House
21. Song – “Gonna Buy Me a Mule” – Koko Taylor
22. Traditional Blues Album – Koko Taylor – Old School
23. Album – Watermelon Slim & the Workers – The Wheel Man
24. Band – Watermelon Slim & the Workers
25. B.B. King Entertainer – Tommy Castro