Billy Boy Arnold, Mike Bloomfield, Matt “Guitar” Murphy, Doc Pomus and Allen Toussaint lead the 2012 class of the Blues Hall of Fame, to be inducted tonight (May 9, 2012) at the Memphis Marriott Downtown in Memphis, Tennessee, ahead of Thursday’s 33rd annual Blues Music Awards ceremonies.
The 2012 class is rounded out by brother-sister act Buddy and Ella Johnson; Louisiana swamp bluesman Lazy Lester; Memphis bluesman Furry Lewis, Horst Lippmann and Fritz Rau, the German promoters of the American Folk Blues Festival; Chicago blues radio legend Pervis Spann; and Frank Stokes, also of Memphis. Albums to be honored are Buddy Guy’s Damn Right, I’ve Got The Blues and Robert Cray’s Bad Influence, while the songs to be recognized include Pine Top Smith’s “Pine Top’s Boogie Woogie” (1928); Tampa Red’s “It Hurts Me Too” (1940); and Magic Sam’s “All Your Love” (1957). The books Bessie by Chris Albertson and The Voice of the Blues: Classic Interviews from Living Blues Magazine, edited by Jim O’Neal & Amy van Singel, will also be inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame.
Thursday’s list of honorees for the Blues Music Awards includes Susan Tedeschi and Derek Trucks, whose Tedeschi-Trucks Band combined for four nominations. Sugar Ray and the Bluetones, Tab Benoit and Johnny Sansone also earned four nominations a piece. The more than 30 other first-time nominees include Joe Bonamassa, Warren Haynes and George Thorogood.
Band of the year nominees for 2012 are Bo-Keys, Lil Ed and the Blues Imperials, Sugar Ray and the Bluetones, Tedeschi Trucks Band, Tommy Castro Band and Trampled Under Foot. The nominees for B.B. King entertainer of the year include Candye Kane, Lil Ed, Ruthie Foster, Tab Benoit, Tommy Castro. (For a complete list of the 2012 Blues Music Award nominees, go here.)
The recognition caps a stirring period of resurgence for Toussaint, who turned the devastating that Hurricane Katrina wrought on his hometown of New Orleans into an opportunity to start anew as a more active touring and recording artist. “It ended up being almost like a blessing for many of us, especially myself,” Toussaint told us in a recent SER Sitdown. “It made us flex new muscles. We lived our lives down here in New Orleans and it easy to become complacent. It’s such a comfortable pace. But Katrina came along and made us try other things, to move away for a period.”
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Here’s a look back at our recent thoughts on some of this week’s blues honorees. Click through the titles for complete reviews and interviews …
TEDESCHI TRUCKS BAND – REVELATOR (2011): Ever since Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi married in 2001, the two have frequently contributed to each other projects and performed together. But through (and likely because of) the rigors of the Allman Brothers, the Derek Trucks Band, Tedeschi’s own band, and the rigors of raising two kids, they never fully consummated their musical marriage. That is, until now. Tedeschi, a pretty good guitar player and a phenomenal singer and Trucks, a great guitar player and an all-world slide specialist, finally join forces full time to form a band that from the mere mention of its existence already becomes one of the premier roots rock bands in the land. Culling together members of the Derek Trucks Band, the Allman Brothers Band and elsewhere, the eleven member Tedeschi Trucks Band is a grand collection of backup singers, horn players, a rhythm section, and, at the core, Trucks and Tedeschi.
ONE TRACK MIND: ALLEN TOUSSAINT ON DR. JOHN AND THE METERS, LEE DORSEY, THE BAND AND ERNIE K-DOE: Toussaint takes us inside his collaborative relationship with happy-go-lucky hitmaker Lee Dorsey, talks about his Grammy-nominated jazz-themed project with Joe Henry, and frames Dr. John’s legacy as successor to Louis Armstrong in the role of New Orleans ambassador. Toussaint also reminisces about his long-standing relationship with the Band, and reveals his true feelings about mothers in law.
RUTHIE FOSTER – LET IT BURN (2012): Ruthie Foster, slowly but surely, has made a name for herself as a singer-songwriter. This album, more than any before it, focuses on the first part — as she brilliantly reinterprets a series of other people’s songs, both contemporary and age-old. So, you’ll hear Foster adding a twilight poignancy to Adele’s “Set Fire to the Rain,” remaking it with every honey-smoked exhalation into a sizzling soul cry. Next, comes her measured, sensual take on Los Lobo’s “This Time” — something that sounds like a leftover from Mavis Staples’ more recent triumphal solo projects, so complete is Foster’s command of her vocal instrument. In the end, Let It Burn — innovative, aware and direct — comes together to form a journey of extraordinary depth and power. The message: You can go home again. But don’t be surprised if it’s different than the way you left it.
FORGOTTEN SERIES: MATT “GUITAR” MURPHY – LUCKY CHARM (2000): One of the best things about this album was the large range of styles you will hear. It’s what the old timers called eclectic. The opening number, “Boogie Overture” is a nasty little instrumental with a ZZ Top-style boogie riff, and some great fret work by Murphy. The Blues Brothers Horns — “Blue” Lou Marini, Alan “Mr. Fabulous” Rubin, and Birch “Slide” Johnson — keep things good and groovy, right off the bat. I really like the acoustic cut “What’s Up with You, Baby?,” while “Who’s Got the Puddy?” is a funky little tune that will put a smile on your face. The piano work on the title cut “Good Luck Charm” by Leon Pendarvis is first rate. This number doesn’t belong on some high-tech CD; it belongs in a backwoods Mississippi juke joint — where you always have too much to drink and chances are good you might see your woman come in with another man.
TAB BENOIT – LEGACY: BEST OF TAB BENOIT (2012): By the time this set rumbles through 14 tracks from 13 years of recording for Telarc Records, comparisons become almost impossible. Like the strange cultural mix of peoples and cultures in Louisiana, Benoit’s one of a kind. In the way that he plays, in the focus of his songs, in the way he mixes and matches textures and influences, he seems to be holding a mirror up to Louisiana’s difficulties with its own history, with its own dwindling resources, with its difficult battles against the natural forces of water, of wind, of erosion. Yet, Benoit never gets bogged down, never lets himself become prisoner to empty slogans, or to the overworked blues cliche. And he never, ever lets it get him down.
THE BO-KEYS – GOT TO GET BACK (2011): The Bo-Keys, with a spring-loaded, testifying Memphis vibe associated with Otis Redding, Rufus Thomas and Al Green, have put out an album that bubbles like a dark, spicy gumbo. There’s a reason for that: The band features many of the sidemen who helped craft that legendary sound. Memphis bassist Scott Bomar, then just 24, helped form the Bo-Keys in 1998 as a backup group for Mack Rice, perhaps best known for writing “Mustang Sally.” But rather than assembling a group of contemporaries, Bomar went to the city’s musical fountainhead: Sidemen from the old Stax/Volt and Hi records sides. That gives Got To Get Back this timelessly absorbing sound, like discovering a forgotten gem at an old-album shop — only everything here is brand spanking new.
LIL ED AND THE BLUES IMPERIALS – RATTLESHAKE (2006): Ed Williams, a good-time throwback, is as much bluesman and blue blood — his uncle and musical mentor was the great slide guitarist J.B. Hutto — so it’s certainly no surprise that he strikes a determined retro stance on “Rattleshake.” What’s cool is that he keeps pulling it off. Mature and easy going, Williams’ band was perhaps framed up best by The Washington Post — which said they had “contagious wildness.” That holds true here, though the Blues Imperials do offer a sensitive reading of Billy Joe Shaver’s “Tramp On Your Street.” Throughout, there is this first-take immediacy — and that’s in keeping with Ed’s legend. In 1986, Alligator Records president Bruce Iglauer invited the Blue Imperials into the studio to do one song for an anthology of young Chicago blues upstarts. Before it was over, the crew was ordering out for beer. Williams recorded his entire first album, “Roughhousin,'” right then, live.
JOE BONAMASSA – BEACON THEATRE: LIVE FROM NEW YORK DVD (2012): Bonamassa is decked out in his usual low-key attire of a dark suit and open white shirt and the show is similarly no-frills and business-like. Serious musicianship ruled the night and Joe B. didn’t disappoint those in audience looking for him to burn up the frets. His style is really a composite of blues-rock and metal guitarists who came before him, and if that doesn’t make it sound like he’s terribly original, watching him play those licks is something else: he, to use a heavily used phrase, makes it look so freakin’ easy.