2023 has been a wonderful year for great new music and my thanks go to everyone who sent in albums for me to play on the award winning Digital Blues.
I received over 300 albums and it was very hard to select my fifteen favourites – this list could easily have been a favourite 25 or 50! – but here they are, in strict alphabetical order!
My choices will not meet with universal approval, indeed there may be many who simply ask ‘Who?’
There will be others who will ask ‘where’s the blues’? There always are!
But I think you will find great variety and certainly come across some stuff you have not heard before. I will be playing tracks from these fifteen albums plus 14 more in the editions of Digital Blues which first air on Sundays 24th and 31st December 2023 and podcasts will be available shortly after they air – links will be inserted here.
Bai Kamara & The Voodoo Sniffers – Traveling Medicine Man – released 3.3.23 – MIG Music
An eagerly awaited new album from the Brussels based, Sierra Leone born musician.
A wonderful blend of blues and African roots touched by Bai’s own talent and originality.
|Bywater Call -Beyond the Doorway – Special edition – released to coincide with their European tour in September 2023 – Independent
A wonderful six tracks, some new, some not and two recorded live.
This Canadian band just keeps on getting better and took Europe by storm in 2023. They’re back in 2024! Catch them if you can, you will not be disappointed!
Cat Squirrel – Blues What I Am – released 6.10.23 – Brand New Music/Dixiefrog Records
A wonderful album featuring three giants – 79 years old legend Mike Vernon, harmonica meister Mingo Balaguer and ace guitarist Kid Ramos. 14 great and varied tracks that keep you moving.
Denis Agenet & Nolapsters – Peace Of Land – released 24.3.23 – Rock N Hall
French drummer and singer Denis, a fixture on the blues scene for several decades, released a 10 track all originals album of New Orleans influenced rhythm ‘n’ blues, soul and sing. A hugely underrated album.
|Dom Martin – Buried in the Hail – released 22.9.23 – Forty Below Records
Dom’s third album is steeped in blues, roots and Americana with 11 tracks, all bar one, originals.
It is a wonderful showcase for Dom’s guitar playing and his haunting and, sometimes, haunted vocals and the album keeps on giving each time you listen to it.
|Eric Bibb – Ridin’ – released 24.3.23 – Dixiefrog Records
I have loved Eric’s music ever since I was first introduced to it more than twenty years ago and once had the pleasure of interviewing him.
His first release for two years, this album has 15 hugely varied tracks and includes various guests and is simply a joy to listen to whatever your mood.
Gaye Adegbalola – Satisfied – An Anthology – released 26.5.23 – VizzTone Label Group
20 tracks, 15 of which are originals, taken from Gaye’s 10 solo releases between 2009 and 2023.
Classy blues from the 20s sit alongside oh so apposite humorous observations on 21st century mores. A wonderful; collection of this talented lady’s work.
|Hazmat Modine – Bonfire – released 11.5.23 – Jaro
I was introduced to this unique band by the late Dave Raven and I am so glad he did! I doubt that there is another band like the Hazmats, a 9 piece musical collective led by Wade Schuman.
Their music is blues based but defies genrification except that it is unique, very original and so very creative. An absolute gem!
|Kaz Hawkins – Until We Meet Again – released 27.3.23 – Dixiefrog Records
10 original songs which see Kaz lay bare her soul and draw strength from her life experiences.
It is live that Kaz is at her absolute best and brings the album to life carrying her audience with her along the way.
Listen to the lyrics and you will cry, laugh, feel joy, feel sorrow but share something special with Kaz.
|Moonlight Benjamin – Wayo – released 24.2.23 – Ma-Case Records
Haitian voodoo priestess has a wonderfully sensual voice and a fervour that imbue this French released album with a darkness and a soul that is unique.
Singing mainly in a Haitian Creole patois, the power of each track rolls over the listener and defies attempts to allocate any genre. Simply unique!
The Cadillac Kings – Crash and Burn – released 1.2.23 – 33 Records
One of my all-time favourite bands, the CKs play vibrant house rocking rhythm & blues supremely well, guaranteed to fill a dance floor.
Add in Mike Thomas’ wry and amusing lyrics plus five great musicians and you have a recipe for mix that more than satisfies.
|The Cinelli Brothers – Lucky Star – released September 23 – Independent
2023 has certainly been a year when the Cinellis went into orbit.
Second place at the Internationals Blues Challenge, third place in the European Blues Challenge, touring all over Europe and initial steps into the USA, this five tracks EP paves the way for the new album recorded in Woodstock which will be released next year.
|The Curse of K.K. Hammond – Death Roll Blues – released 31.3.23 – Independent
Mysterious one woman band, K.K. lives a somewhat hermit like life and produces wonderfully atmospheric, swampy blues thrumming with resonator guitars and haunting vocals.
A one off artiste, I just love listening to and immersing myself in her music.
|Veronica Sbergia – Bawdy Black Pearls – released 19.5.23 – Bloos Records
Daring and courageous, progressive and unconventional women, these are the scandalous black pearls to whom the title of Italian musician Veronica Sbergia’s latest album refers.
Veronica does more than justice to this wonderful selection of musical double entendres as well as chronicling a time when songs like this were acceptable!
|Women In Blues – Rita Engadalen & Margit Bakken – My Precious Blues – released August 2023 – Bluestown Records
Norway’s foremost blues musicians who have been paying homage to women in the history of blues for 20 years, released this 11 track album containing many originals written by Norwegian Grammy winning Rita.
Also featured is the late Morten Omlid, a very fine guitarist who died suddenly in November 2023. R.I.P.