2013 – DIGITAL BLUES’ YEAR IN REVIEW
Each year at about this time, as I sit down to gather my thoughts about the world according to Digital Blues over the last year, I find myself wondering where the year went! I think it must have something to do with getting older that makes the time appear to pass ever more quickly. After all, I am officially an OAP (an old age pensioner for those not familiar with the term!) and receiving my State pension!
This year has been a pretty special one for a number of reasons. I would like to say an enormous thank you to the Directors of Gateway Community Media who, in November, honoured me with the Radio Achievement Award for outstanding commitment to voluntary service. I was very touched to receive this award and, in turn, would like to thank the award winning Gateway 97.8 for allowing Digital Blues to be part of their schedules. Coming on top of a number of other award nominations in 2013, this really was the icing on the cake!
Talking of other awards, I would also like to say a huge thank you to all those who nominated/voted for me and/or Digital Blues with the result that nominations were forthcoming, for the third year running, in the British Blues Awards – Independent Blues Broadcaster category and the Blues Matters! Writers’ Poll Best Blues Radio Show/Station category.
I was also dead chuffed to find myself in third place behind Paul Jones & Dave Raven in the Best Radio Show category of the European Blues Awards. Wow!! Thank you again!
I am also delighted that Digital Blues has, very recently, been approached to be added to the schedule at Network Radio 4, an all blues station based in Spainand broadcasting worldwide via www.networkradio.eu. Final scheduling details are being worked on and I am thrilled that Digital Blues now has another outlet and that our message is available to an ever growing audience!!! I am also flattered to have been asked!!
This continued recognition is set against a background of an ever increasing number of specialist blues radio shows in the UK with more appearing almost every day. The Independent Blues Broadcasters Association, which was formed earlier this year to provide a focal point for UK broadcasters, now has 29 members who, between them, broadcast nearly 130 hours of blues radio shows to/from the UK and around the world.
And not all the blues broadcasters in the UK are members of the IBBA! Find out more about the Association at www.bluesbroadcasters.co.uk.
One of the personal highlights of the year was attending the Third European Blues Challenge which took place in Toulouse over two days in March. This competition saw 19 bands from 19 European countries, including the wonderful Babajack representing the UK, playing short sets over two nights in Le Bikini night club in Toulouse. In addition there was a conference and a blues market during the day which was a fantastic opportunity to meet fellow blues lovers from around Europe. I was particularly pleased to meet up with a number of fellow blues presenters from around Europe including Dave Raven, winner of the British Blues Award this year.
I am looking forward to 2014’s European Blues Challenge which takes place in Riga on the 11th & 12th of April – more details at
You can read several pieces I wrote in connection with the EBU and the EBC which were published in Blues Matters! On the ‘In Print’ page of the Digital Blues website. – http://www.digitalblues.co.uk/?page_id=754
Looking back over my playlists for 2013, I am reminded of how many excellent CDs came my way, all of which you will have heard on Digital Blues at one time or another during the year and will have an opportunity to hear again in the first few shows of 2014.
It really has been a bumper year and putting together these end of the year/beginning of the New Year editions of Digital Blues in which I feature just some of my favourite CDs from 2013, has been an incredibly difficult and very time consuming job. There were so many that I wanted to include! I really do think that this year has been an extra special one with a greater number than ever of first class CDs issued.
In amongst all the really great CDs that I received, there are some standouts and, in no particular order, these are my top twenty.
Zoe Schwarz Blue Commotion – The Blues Don’t Scare Me – A gorgeous collection of 12 songs, 11 of them originals with Zoe’s smoky delicious vocals and a top class five piece band coming together to produce something magical.
Thomas Ford – Breaking Everything But Even – Thomas’ first full CD and one with which he was not happy. Heaven knows why! This is an absolute cracker with great original material that deserves a wider audience.
Trickbag – Trickbag With Friends– Vol 1 – From Sweden, as fine a group of 50’s style blues as you will find featuring great guests from the UK & USA including one of the finest harmonica players in the UK, Steve ‘West’ Weston.
Rachelle Plas – Profile – French harmonica player, Rachelle, is a ‘find’! This CD features 11 very varied all original tracks that showcase Rachelle’s harmonica and vocal prowess. Also definitely a lady to see live!
Hugh Laurie – Didn’t It Rain – a much panned CD by the ‘cognoscenti’ but for me 13 great and varied covers featuring some big name guests as well as some very good unknowns. Congratulations Mr Laurie, another damn fine collection worthy of play in anyone’s house!
Layla Zoe – The Lily – Canada’s darling of the blues, who I had the pleasure of meeting and seeing in August, with a great new album featuring all original and very personal material with music and production by Henrik Freischlader who also contributes some superb guitar playing.
Sam Hare – Good Things Always – An all too brief four track EP from another of the UK’s criminally unsung musicians. The evocative instrumental, ‘Low Tide’ probably my instrumental track of the year and ‘Distant London’ a song with which all travelling musicians will identify.
Danny Kyle – Rag ‘n’ Bone Blues – Another ‘below the radar’ top class musician with a glorious collection of original material delivered in a beautiful stripped down style featuring great guitar and fine vocals
Mockingbird Hill – One Horse Town – Andy Littlewood’s brilliant collection of hugely varied original material where he played most of the instruments but was joined by guests such as guitarist Mick Simpson and vocalist Malaya, all to very great effect.
Will Wilde – Raw Blues – Fine young harmonica player Will with a widely acclaimed CD which showcased his growing talent as both a songwriter and a player. Featuring some very thought provoking lyrics and some great harp, a cert for my top 20!
Half Deaf Clatch – A Road Less Travelled – Blues as I love them, a man, a guitar, a stomp box and down and dirty songs, delicious. Half Deaf Clatch’s debut CD has, deservedly, created quite a stir. Look out for him at festivals and gigs near you in 2014. And get your copy of the CD!
Lincoln Durham – Exodus of the Deemed Unrighteous – Sadly, due to jobsworth airline officials, Lincoln had to cancel his projected UK tour in the latter part of 2013 but his latest CD offered some comfort! With one of the best titles of the year, this is a cracking collection of prime Durhamiana which should be in your CD collection.
Mojo Makers – Wait Till The Morning – A new name to me, Denmark’s Mojo Makers certainly created quite a stir with a very good CD of all original material and probably the CD sleeve artwork of the year!
MonkeyJunk – All Frequencies – the multi-award winning Canadian band released a new CD in September featuring 10 great tracks, all bar one originals, that served to prove, if proof was needed, the great musical range of this superb trio.
Dawn Tyler-Watson & Paul Deslauriers – Southland – Eagerly awaited new CD from two of Canada’s finest. A great melange of covers and originals, great lyrics, great guitar and great voices can only mean one thing, a great CD!
Robbie Hill & the Blue 62’s – Price To Pay – From Scotland originally, Robbie moved to Finland where he met an American and a Finn and the rest is history! A fine debut from a band which very much merits a wider audience.
The Fran McGillivray Band – Some Luck – A lovely laid-back acoustic CD from three former members of So Long Angel. 13 glorious tracks, mainly originals, and another contender for CD artwork of the year!
Northsyde – The Storyteller’s Daughter – The Fothergills (Lorna & Jules), Ian Mauricio and Hayden Doyle conjure up more magic that defies genre-lising! These are musical stories that will have you enthralled.
Cotton Belly’s – This Day – An excellent six piece French act who pull together all sorts of influences – ‘acoustic / electric “festive” blues. Their approach is to highlight the jovial facet of blues.’ Could not have put it better myself! Listen to the CD and you will see what I mean!
This list started out as a top ten but I simply could not choose just ten. Even cutting off at twenty, I have had to leave out so many albums that I really enjoyed hugely!
Sadly and inevitably, we have lost some great names from the blues firmament during the year including:
January – Precious Bryant and Ann Rabson
February – Roscoe Chenier and Magic Slim
April – Jimmy Dawkins and Bob Brozman
June – Bobby ‘Blue’ Bland
July – T-Model Ford and J J Cale
November – Aaron Moore
December – Chick Willis
R.I.P. and thank you for the music.
To close, a big thank you to the management of Kansas City Online Radio and Gateway 97.8 for giving Digital Blues the opportunity to be part of their schedules and to all the musicians, record labels, radio promoters, magazines, venues, friends, blues lovers and others who supported Digital Blues through 2013, whether it was by nominating/voting for Digital Blues in the various Awards, submitting music, spreading the word or simply tuning in to listen to Digital Blues.
Without you, there would be no Digital Blues!
Here’s to 2014 and another great year of great blues.
A bientôt et bonne année.