10. Buddy Guy - " Rhythm & Blues"
Buddy Guy is the torchbearer for incendiary blues. He is the Godfather of it. Buddy Guy is what Jimi Hendrix would be if he had lived longer. "Rhythm & Blues" shows that Guy's blazing chops are still in fine form. The Chicago Blues are alive and well, thank you very much, thanks to Buddy Guy and his wonderfully young seventy-seven year old soul. Lots of good ones here and some very interesting guest appearances: Kid Rock, Keith Urban, Beth Hart, Steven Tyler, Joe Perry and Brad Whitford from Aerosmith, and Gary Clark Jr. Buddy's still got it.
9. Tinsley Ellis - "Get It!"
Atlanta bluesman Tinsley Ellis' instrumental release "Get It!" is old school. Blues, surf, chicken pickin', Southern rock all on a fun and at times intense release that showcases Ellis' guitar brilliance and his various influences. This one shines.
8. Moreland & Arbuckle - "7 Cities"
I swear Moreland & Arbuckle are straight out of North Mississippi. Turns out they're from Kansas. How does this hot Hill Country Blues-Roots-Rock trio not come from the Delta? Blues is universal. So is very good music. Aaron Moreland on cigar box guitar absolutely kills it on "Tall Boogie". Check them out for yourself.
And maybe the most interesting cover for 2013 for "7 Cities" is Moreland & Arbuckle covering Tears For Fears' "Everybody Wants To Rule The World", seen and heard here:
7. Tedeschi Trucks Band - "Made Up Mind"
Susan Tedeschi and Derek Trucks' super group maintains excellence with "Made Up Mind". Beautiful vocals from soulful Tedeschi, brilliant slide guitar from Trucks, a big horn and percussion section, funky, bluesy, rock and soul all mesh to form a near perfect CD. Check out one of the Tedeschi Trucks Band shows if you get a chance - brilliant!
6. The Avett Brothers - "Magpie and the Dandelion"
A lot has been written about The Avett Brothers in the last couple of years. Audiences have found their live shows riveting and lively. They have an extremely loyal following. And no wonder! Superb song writing, beautiful harmonizing, masterful musicianship, great chemistry all abound in this North Carolina band. Roots, folk, bluegrass, rock, country all rolled into one to create a great American sound. This release harkens to some of their earlier efforts and has a very earthy feel to it.
5. Shawn Holt and The Teardrops - "Daddy Told Me"
Shawn Holt is the son of the late, great Magic Slim (Morris Holt). Magic Slim's band, The Teardrops, back Shawn on this debut effort, and man does it sizzle and pop. Gut wrenching blues with tight and heavy guitar licks, big on the Chicago gut bucket sound. Thick and swirling with his legendary father's influences, Shawn Holt hits a home run with this one, featuring some blues standards and some great originals. (Favorite lyrics, from "Hold You Again", "My tears are my only friend...")
4. The Civil Wars - "The Civil Wars"
Simply the best duo in any music genre today. Haunting harmonies, virtuoso musicianship, deep soulful and heart-wrenching songs... and they are not speaking to each other? Joy Williams and John Paul White comprise The Civil Wars and yet they have been uncivil to each other since Williams took a "maternity leave" from touring late in 2012. Yet they still managed to record a deep, melancholy and reflective self-titled CD. Even the artwork for the cover is bleak. This release features a fantastic cover of Smashing Pumpkins' "Disarm".
Their future is not bleak though. We can only hope that they work out their differences. They are simply phenomenal.
3. JJ Grey & Mofro - "This River"
JJ Grey & Mofro hail from Jacksonville and their sound is decidedly Southern. Rock/blues/soul/funk and a little jam band thrown in for good measure. Sprinkles of the Muscle Shoals sound and Stax Records are heard. Grey's voice is gritty and honest. His lyrics reflect a great wit with a slower pace, then he gets funky and you must boogie. One of my favorite songs of the year is the title cut "This River". I love this release; was played constantly over the summer when I was down on Watts Bar Lake on the Tennessee River.
2. Southern Hospitality - "Easy Livin'"
Southern Hospitality. That says it all. This Southern Super Band is made up of regional stars of Southern music. On this debut release they blend blues, soul, funk, swamp, Southern rock, gospel and reggae all into a giant tasteful biscuit of Southern Love. Shades of Little Feat, Dr. John, and CCR all echo in their gritty Southern soulful sound, yet it is still fresh and tasteful. You feel Memphis and New Orleans all over this release. Get me some sweet tea and butter my biscuit 'cause this is one the best releases of any genre in 2013. Bonus: this release was produced by Tab Benoit. Win.
1. The Wood Brothers - "The Muse"
The Wood Brothers are Oliver (guitars) and Chris (upright bass) along with percussionist- instrumentalist Jano Rix. The brothers grew up listening to blues and roots music, which is the base of their sound now, forming a Folk-Blues-Roots trio that conveys the Americana musical form to perfection. Solid, witty and thoughtful songwriting paired with extraordinary musicianship provided for my favorite release of the year. Reflective ballads, country blues-based boogies, strong stories reflect in their songs. Fantastic chemistry and professionalism are conveyed in their recording and live shows. Oliver carries the weight with an earthy vocal style that harkens to a simpler time while remaining contemporary. His style eases the soul and captivates the mind. The Wood Brothers are simply one of the best Amercian bands recording and performing today. If you haven't had the pleasure of listening to them or enjoying one of their live shows, do yourself a huge favor and indulge. You will find your muse.