The 32nd annual Blues Museum Awards ceremony was held Thursday night at the Memphis Cook Convention Center. Produced by the Memphis-based Blues Foundation, the event belonged to Buddy Guy. The Louisiana native claimed four BMAs, as his celebrated Living Proof release claimed song and album of the year honors. Guy was named best contemporary blues artist and claimed the B.B. King entertainer of the year award.
BUDDY GUY – LIVING PROOF: Again produced and co-written with Tom Hambridge, this is easily the Lettsworth, La., native’s most consistent recording in years, and one that most resembles the liquid-fire aggression of his live performances. Buddy Guy is not disappearing quietly into any good night. In fact, if he ever goes down, it’ll be swinging.
Texas folk-blues singer Ruthie Foster earned the Koko Taylor award as best traditional female artist. Memphis-born Charlie Musselwhite earned two BMAs, including one for traditional blues artist. Newcomer Matt Hill’s On the Floor was named best debut. The award for instrumentalist-guitar went to Derek Trucks. Louisiana’s Irma Thomas was honored as soul blues female artist of the year. Fellow Louisiana native Kenny Wayne Shepherd was honored for rock blues album, in a release featuring Hubert Sumlin, Willie “Big Eyes” Smith, Bryan Lee and Buddy Flett called Live! In Chicago.
The night was tinged in sadness, however, as several top awards were given to the recently departed.
Blues piano legend Pinetop Perkins, who died in March, earned best traditional blues album honors for Joined At the Hip, his collaboration with “Big Eyes” Smith. Solomon Burke, who passed in October, earned recognition for soul-blues artist and album for the LP Nothing’s Impossible, produced by Willie Mitchell, who also died in 2010. Robin Rogers, who succumbed to cancer in December at age 55, was recognized as best female contemporary blues artist.
Dr. John was named Pinetop Perkins piano player of the year. Smith later joined Bob Carritore, who was named best harmonica player, in an all-star tribute to Perkins.
PINETOP PERKINS (1913-2011): AN APPRECIATION: Perkins, whose real name was Joseph William Perkins, working in bands for Robert Nighthawk, Sonny Boy Williamson II and Earl Hooker before recording “Pinetop’s Boogie Woogie” in 1953. A nickname was born. Later, he famously played alongside Waters from 1969-79, a stint that included an appearance in The Band‘s legendary final concert in 1976, “The Last Waltz.” After helping to form the Legendary Blues Band in 1980, Perkins belatedly charged into his solo career in 1988 — famously issuing 15 albums in the next 15 years.
The awards were voted on by the more than 4,500 members of the Blues Foundation. Among the performers were first-time BMA nominee Steve Miller Band and soul-blues legend Denise LaSalle, who was enshrined in the foundation’s Blues Hall of Fame on Wednesday night.