Albums

Blues - Released January 1, 1965 | Geffen* Records

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Blues - Released August 17, 2009 | Universal Music Mexico

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Blues - Released January 1, 1986 | Island Mercury

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The set that made Cray a pop star, despite its enduring blues base. Cray's smoldering stance on "Smoking Gun" and "Right Next Door" rendered him the first sex symbol to emerge from the blues field in decades, but it was his innovative expansion of the genre itself that makes this album a genuine 1980s classic. "Nothing but a Woman" boasts an irresistible groove pushed by the Memphis Horns and some metaphorically inspired lyrics, while "I Wonder" and "Guess I Showed Her" sizzle with sensuality. ~ Bill Dahl

Blues - Released January 1, 1999 | Geffen*

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Blues - Released January 1, 1986 | Mercury Records

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Blues - Released October 24, 2014 | Epic

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Blues - Released March 31, 2014 | Ace Records

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Two songs into Every Day I Have the Blues, T-Bone Walker starts singing a slow-crawling 12-bar blues about "Vietnam," a pretty good indication that this 1969 LP belongs to its era. That's not the only way this record evokes its time. Released on Bob Thiele's newly launched Bluestime imprint, this is redolent of every production trend of the late '60s: topical songs compete for space with fuzz guitar, tracks that stretch out, way out, as both Walker and his supporting band get a lot of space to solo. Compared to other LPs from Bluestime -- including The Real Boss of the Blues by Big Joe Turner and Otis Spann's Sweet Giant of the Blues, both reissued in 2014 simultaneously with this Walker record -- Every Day I Have the Blues is more about the sounds and feel of 1969, which makes sense. Turner belonged to the '50s and Spann was an amiable session man but Walker was a frontman ready to ride the wave of fashion, hopefully getting toward the charts but, more realistically, garnering just enough attention to get back into the studio one more time. Every Day is filled with his signature single-note runs -- he was never less than a consummate guitarist -- and he amiably plays with the burbling organ, slightly too bawdy horns, and too loose rhythms. What's fun here is that very distant disconnect, how Walker doesn't fully embrace his new surroundings but is game anyway, playing up a storm on otherwise undistinguished instrumentals like "T-Bone Blues Special" and launching a cut called "For B.B. King" that is inexplicably based on Ray Charles' "Lonely Avenue" and finds T-Bone playing in his own style, never once attempting B.B.'s runs. Then again, much of the pleasure of this record is hearing Walker stay true to himself, no matter what his band does. He's happy to groove, he'll weather the fashions but he won't change his style, and that makes for an enjoyable listen. [Ace's 2014 reissue is augmented by two tracks originally released on the live 1970 LP Super Black Blues, Vol. 2.] ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
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Blues - Released January 25, 2013 | Epic - Legacy

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It's hard to overestimate the impact Stevie Ray Vaughan's debut, Texas Flood, had upon its release in 1983. At that point, blues was no longer hip, the way it was in the '60s. Texas Flood changed all that, climbing into the Top 40 and spending over half a year on the charts, which was practically unheard of for a blues recording. Vaughan became a genuine star and, in doing so, sparked a revitalization of the blues. This was a monumental impact, but his critics claimed that, no matter how prodigious Vaughan's instrumental talents were, he didn't forge a distinctive voice; instead, he wore his influences on his sleeve, whether it was Albert King's pinched yet muscular soloing or Larry Davis' emotive singing. There's a certain element of truth in that, but that was sort of the point of Texas Flood. Vaughan didn't hide his influences; he celebrated them, pumping fresh blood into a familiar genre. When Vaughan and Double Trouble cut the album over the course of three days in 1982, he had already played his set lists countless times; he knew how to turn this material inside out or goose it up for maximum impact. The album is paced like a club show, kicking off with Vaughan's two best self-penned songs, "Love Struck Baby" and "Pride and Joy," then settling into a pair of covers, the slow-burning title track and an exciting reading of Howlin' Wolf's "Tell Me," before building to the climax of "Dirty Pool" and "I'm Crying." Vaughan caps the entire thing with "Lenny," a lyrical, jazzy tribute to his wife. It becomes clear that Vaughan's true achievement was finding something personal and emotional by fusing different elements of his idols. Sometimes the borrowing was overt, and other times subtle, but it all blended together into a style that recalled the past while seizing the excitement and essence of the present. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine

Blues - Released June 28, 2011 | Shout!

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This recording session was not released until five years after it was done. One can imagine the tapes practically smoldering in their cases, the music is so hot. Sorry, there is nothing "wrong" about this blues album at all. Otis Rush was a great blues expander, a man whose guitar playing was in every molecule pure blues. On his solos on this album he strips the idea of the blues down to very simple gestures (i.e., a bent string, but bent in such a subtle way that the seasoned blues listener will be surprised). As a performer he opens up the blues form with his chord progressions and use of horn sections, the latter instrumentation again added in a wonderfully spare manner, bringing to mind a master painter working certain parts of a canvas in order to bring in more light. Blues fans who get tired of the same old song structures, riff, and rhythms should be delighted with most of Rush's output, and this one is among his best. Sometimes all he does to make a song sound unlike any blues one has ever heard is just a small thing -- a chord moving up when one expects it go down, for example. The production is particularly skilled, and the fact that Capitol Records turned this session down after originally producing it can only be reasonably accepted when combined with other decisions this label has made, such as turning down the Doors because singer Jim Morrison had "no charisma." This record doesn't mess around at all. The first track takes off like the man they fire out of a cannon at the end of a circus, a perceived climax swaggeringly representing just the beginning, after all. Some of the finest tracks are the ones that go longer than five minutes, allowing the players room to stretch. And that means more of Rush's great guitar playing, of course. For the final track he leaves the blues behind completely for a moving cover version of "Rainy Night in Georgia" by Tony Joe White. ~ Eugene Chadbourne

Blues - Released January 25, 2011 | Arhoolie Records

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A self-described "sharecropper and songster," Texas singer and guitarist Mance Lipscomb didn't just play the blues, although he was well acquainted with both the realities and cultural myths of the genre. He also played ballads, reels, rags, waltzes, children's songs, and spirituals, and was even known to tackle a foxtrot or polka when the situation called for it. This 22-track compilation collects some of the key recordings from the five LPs the songster issued with Chris Strachwitz's Arhoolie Records, including fine versions of "Jack O'Diamonds," "Sugar Babe," and "Tom Moore's Farm," and Lipscomb's warm, unassuming, and gentle approach shines through even when he dips into the darker regions of the blues. ~ Steve Leggett

Blues - Released January 25, 2011 | Arhoolie Records

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Blues - Released January 25, 2011 | Arhoolie Records

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Blues - Released January 25, 2011 | Arhoolie Records

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Blues - Released January 25, 2011 | Arhoolie Records

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Arhoolie's Ball n' Chain is a terrific collection of late-'60s recordings from Big Mama Thornton. Supported on various tracks by Lightnin' Hopkins and Larry Williams, Big Mama runs through such familiar items as "Hound Dog," "Sometimes I Have a Heartache," "Sweet Little Angel," "Little Red Rooster," "Wade in the Water," and "Ball and Chain," turning in generally powerful performances. By and large, these don't necessarily rival her classic '50s recordings, but they are worth investigating if you're looking for something more. ~ Thom Owens

Blues - Released January 25, 2011 | Arhoolie Records

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Arhoolie reissued two of Big Joe Williams' seminal rediscovery albums on one disc in 1990. The first, 1960's Tough Times, ranks among his best; the second, 1969's Thinking of What They Did to Me, isn't as strong, but the two albums provide an excellent introduction to this Delta bluesman. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine

Blues - Released January 25, 2011 | Arhoolie Records

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Blues - Released June 18, 2009 | Alligator Records

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Ice Pickin' is the album that brought Albert Collins directly back into the limelight, and for good reason, too. The record captures the wild, unrestrained side of his playing that had never quite been documented before. Though his singing doesn't quite have the fire or power of his playing, the album doesn't suffer at all because of that -- he simply burns throughout the album. Ice Pickin' was his first release for Alligator Records and it set the pace for all the albums that followed. No matter how much he tried, Collins never completely regained the pure energy that made Ice Pickin' such a revelation. ~ Thom Owens
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Blues - Released June 18, 2009 | Alligator Records

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Blues - Released July 7, 2008 | Ace Records

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Blues - Released January 1, 1973 | Concord Records, Inc.

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Another very solid, early-'70s outing. ~ Bill Dahl