S. Victor Aaron’s Best of 2015 (Part 1 of 4, Non-Jazz): Erykah Badu, Shemekia Copeland, Sam Butler

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Another year of music is in the books, which means it’s the time to look back and makes some calls on which albums stood out the most. Most of the new releases that reach my ears tend to come from the jazz or avant-garde realm, but there’s always room for enjoying music of other styles, and this year of those such CD’s reviewed in this space, I came across ten that needed some extra shout-outs.

These are recommended selections culled from the famous and should-be-famous men and women, spanning blues, roots, soul and more. And one from a noted sideman who steps out into the lead and takes the prize…


John Ginty – No Filter: As one of the founding member of Robert Randolph’s Family Band, John Ginty more than knows his way around a variety of music styles, and probably has a healthy curiosity about a lot more. Now on his own, he could have made pretty much any kind of record he wanted, but wisely played to his strength as a roots-inclined keyboard player and a burgeoning strength as a songwriter.

Ginty’s outsized personality on the veritable Hammond B3 organ is matched up well with strong vocal personalities, most obviously with Alexis P. Suter’s devastating gospel/blues roar on “Old Shoes,” but his instrumentals also demonstrate a dominant sound — with heaping helpings of soul and a dramatic flair — and he knows how to conceive melodies that exploit it. The opener “Fredo,” with his big, bodacious B3 is a nocturnal stomp that belongs on a Quentin Tarantino film soundtrack.

John Ginty did more than just make a keyboard record by a keyboard guy; he’s made a well-rounded roots rock record that’s of the caliber of Randolph, The Black Keys or the Tedeschi-Trucks Band.


David Philips – If I Had Wings: UK-born troubadour David Philips is a jazz musician trapped in the soul of a folk-blues singer-songwriter, and though he’s still playing folk-blues, he’s also set himself free.

Tim & Caio – In Brazil: It’s the airy acoustic pop of Jack Johnson, the festive vibe of Brazil and the surprise of jazz all rolled up into one.

Bernard Allison – In The Mix: After nearly five years without a new studio recording, Allison returns with nothing too fancy but everything rock solid. Here’s is a mighty good way to take in the all-around skills of one of the better bluesmen of the last couple of decades.

Tad Robinson – Day Into Night: There are no filler tracks here. Tad Robinson had assembled a solid backing band and sparkling tunes to make a quality soul-blues record that faithfully follows in the stellar tradition of ZZ Hill, Bobby ‘Blue’ Bland and Little Milton.

Shemekia Copeland – Outskirts of Love: There’s no let up in the 21st century blues from Shemekia Copeland found on Outskirts of Love, her triumphant return to Alligator Records.

Jeff Crosby – Waking Days: Jeff Crosby has made a steady progression from his first to where he is now, refining his craft along the way. And that’s enough to make Waking Days his best thus far and one of the best singer-songwriter albums you’re likely to come across this year.

Sam Butler – Raise Your Hands!: An exciting debut from the ex-Blind Boys of Alabama guitarist. Like all the best religious records, Raise Your Hands! has that the ability to lift the spirits of pagans and Christians alike. All that’s required is a belief in good, unfiltered rock ‘n’ roll.

Erykah Badu – But You Caint Use My Phone: Whether or not this telephone-themed alchemy of neo-soul and alt-hip hop was meant to be a placeholder until a ‘real’ album is ready, Badu’s relentless thirst to push the edge makes it no small deal regardless.

Lizz Wright – Freedom and Surrender: Lizz Wright makes you feel it down to the bone on a journey that covers a lot of musical ground. With this Larry Klein-produced affair, the trip is always rewarding and often exceptional.

S. Victor Aaron’s Best of 2015 (Modern and Mainstream Jazz) >>>

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron is an SQL demon for a Fortune 100 company by day, music opinion-maker at night. His musings are strewn out across the interwebs on jazz.com, AllAboutJazz.com, a football discussion board and some inchoate customer reviews of records from the late 1990s on Amazon under a pseudonym that will never be revealed. E-mail him at svaaron@somethingelsereviews .com or follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SVictorAaron
S. Victor Aaron
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