Tab Benoit, Tedeschi Trucks Band, Curtis Salgado, Ruthie Foster among big winners at 2012 Blues Music Awards

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Louisiana bluesman Tab Benoit earned the B.B. King Entertainer of the Year award at the 33rd annual Blues Music Awards, held May 10, 2012 at the Memphis Cook Convention Center. Benoit also claimed contemporary blues artist of the year and contemporary blues album of the year for Medicine, his recent Telarc release.

Tedeschi Trucks Band, the celebrated new husband-wife group, claimed both 2012 band and album of the year for Revelator, issued last year on Sony. Susan Tedeschi was also named contemporary blues female artist of the year, while Derek Trucks earned the nod as best guitarist.

Curtis Salgado was named 2012 soul blues male artist of the year, while Ruthie Foster was named Koko Taylor traditional blues female artist of the year, and also was honored with best DVD. Denise LaSalle was named soul blues female artist of the year.

Charlie Musselwhite earned awards for traditional blues male artist of the year, as well as best harmonica player — marking the 68-year-old’s 17th time to be honored for his harp work. Bobby Rush earned soul blues album of the year honors for Show You A Good Time.

Runaway, the Samantha Fish project for Ruf Records, was named best new artist debut of the year. The Howlin’ Wolf reissue Smokestack Lightning: The Complete Chess Masters, 1951-1960 from Hip-O Select was named historical album of the year, while song of the year honors went to “The Lord Is Waiting, the Devil Is Too,” by Johnny Sansone.

The Blues Music Awards are voted on by the more than 4,500 members of the Blues Foundation, a Memphis-based nonprofit organization that represents more than 200 blues societies around the world.

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Here’s a look back at our thoughts on this year’s Blues Music Awards recipients. Click through the titles for complete reviews and interviews …

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.

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.

SOMETHING ELSE! INTERVIEW: SOUL BLUES SHOUTER CURTIS SALGADO: Curtis Salgado, who has kicked off 2012 with a sizzling new soul-blues debut for Alligator Records, has never been fated with an uninteresting life. From an early stint playing alongside Robert Cray in 1976-82 to playing an inspirational role for John Belushi’s character in The Blues Brothers film, from sitting in for a pair of 1980s recordings by Roomful of Blues to a 1990s-era stint with Santana, Salgado’s narrative has been as eventful as it has been full of great music. The tale took a dark turn more recently, as the Portland, Oregon, resident battled cancer through the latter part of the last decade, but even then Salgado never lost his fiery determination. And the story continues.

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.

CHARLIE MUSSELWHITE – IN MY TIME (1993): Charlie Musselwhite, who once played with Muddy Waters, has just gotten better in his absence. A fine example is this Grammy-nominated release, which includes a deft cover of Sleepy John Estes’ fine “Brownsville Blues.” It’s a career highpoint, and (funny thing) Musselwhite hasn’t even put harmonica to mouth yet at that point. (The opener, “Stingaree,” actually features on Musselwhite on guitar.) He remains, as a vocalist and a harp player, a voice from another place. And that echoing call only grows more resonant as the forefathers he so strongly recalls have faltered and passed on.

SOMETHING ELSE! FEATURED ARTIST: DENISE LaSALLE: From the outset, Denise LaSalle has had both hands firmly around the neck of some rascal. Whether belting in the genres of gospel, blues, R&B, even a funky blues-hip hop hybrid, no-goods are put on notice: You don’t mess with Denise. That flat-footed, go-hither stance — call her a modern-day Bessie Smith — is no copped attitude. LaSalle was one of the first African-American women to produce her own records. She writes nearly every cut on her own sessions, too. She’s as tough as she is prolific.

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