Best Blues
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Blues guitar - Reviews and recommendations

 

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Blues guitar - Reviews and recommendations
Blues Guitar

Blues Guitar - This page is dedicated to the cream of the crop blues guitar  players. There are so many. A difficult task indeed. How many should I include? I wanted to keep the list short to emphasize the best. To start, I decided on six. 

For the initial list I wanted to include a taste of some of the early acoustic players, Chicago blues, and blues rock, the top tier of each category. Too, I wanted to include single string, finger picking, slide guitar, and dual guitar. 

With the acoustic blues, the two entries are completely different. Robert Johnson represents the Mississippi Delta. So much can be traced back to him. There is Muddy Waters who recorded lots of Delta material before helping revolutionize the Chicago electric blues scene. From Muddy's influence we have legends like Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, The Rolling Stones, etc. From Clapton we have Van Halen, from Page we have Rush, from The Rolling Stones we have Aerosmith, from Aerosmith we have Guns N' Roses. You get the picture. Conversely, Reverend Gary Davis is more of a finger picking ragtime blues player. And before Reverend Gary Davis we had Blind Willie Johnson, and after, Jorma Kaukonen etc. So much great music traces back.

Chicago Blues - Muddy Waters is the representative of the Chicago blues genre. We'll add more Chicago greats in upcoming chapters. Muddy has a vast catalog. Starting with acoustic delta music and then the electric blues formula. Muddy's band personnel changed through the years as many of his band mates branched out on their own. 

Blues Rock - A nice variety here. Slide master Duane Allman, teams up with Dickey Betts to perform dual guitar music that is so kind to the ears. Fret master Stevie Ray Vaughan really took blues to a new level by adding the Hendrix influence, Then, Derek and the Dominos incorporates both slide and straight guitar, featuring Duane Allman and Eric Clapton respectively. Speaking of Clapton, since Derek and the Dominos made the list, I snuck a few blues leaning Clapton recommendations on the list. 

To recap, the finalists are: 
Robert Johnson
Reverend Gary Davis
Muddy Waters
Duane Allman
Derek and the Dominos
Stevie Ray Vaughan
I went back and forth on who to include. The two that were never in question are Duane Allman and Stevie Ray Vaughan. 

I'm expanding this section to highlight some of my other favorite blues players with additional sections. Some of those that were considerations for the front page are: King (all three), Roy Buchanan, Howlin' Wolf, Mississippi Fred McDowell, Buddy Guy, Lightning Hopkins, Blind Willie Johnson, and others. 

Other chapters in our Best Blues section include
Blues Music ] VariousArtists ] Slide & Bottleneck ] Martin Scorsese Pre... ]

Other blues related material in our website:
Our music video section includes the American Folk-Blues Festival DVD's. Plus we have a chapter on Acoustic Blues and Guitar piano: Blues.

Blues guitar - Reviews and recommendations
Robert Johnson The Complete Recordings Complete Collection
Robert Johnson makes the list as much for his contribution and influence to the blues genre as the music itself. I have Johnson's The Complete Recordings and do enjoy listening to it, but without its historic importance, he wouldn't have made the front page.

There are 29 Robert Johnson songs. Of them, several were recorded twice for a total of 41 recordings. That is all there is. 

All 41 recordings are on The Complete Recordings. The package has very good liner notes with photos, lyrics, recording dates, and essays. The tracks are in chorological order.  Meanwhile, Complete Collection has the 29 songs on one disc without the alternate tracks. There are plenty of other, lesser, compilations that include some of his songs and numerous tribute releases.

The great label JSP released a box set called The Road to Robert Johnson (and beyond). It contains four discs. The first disc are pre Robert Johnson artists and peers. The second disc contains 29 Robert Johnson songs. The third and fourth disc comprise of great blues artists that were followed Johnson. They didn't gather a track per artist, but often have numerous songs. For example, for Muddy Waters on disc three they included all of the songs from his The Complete Plantation Recordings CD, which were recorded in 1941.  

Mississippi Blues, Vol. 4 - This album was originally released in 1987 and digitally remastered in 2007. Four tracks by Otto Virgil, 11 by by Robert Johnson and eight by  Robert Lockwood.

 
The Road to Robert Johnson Mississippi Blues, Vol. 4
Blues guitar - Reviews and recommendations
Reverend Gary Davis Pure Religion & Bad Company Heroes of the Blues
Reverend Gary Davis' ragtime finger picking  playing is among the best of that technique. So good that he has influenced generations of guitarists. Perhaps none more than Jorma Kaukonen of Jefferson Airplane, Hot Tuna, etc. 

Fortunately, there are quality recordings of available of Davis. The two recordings noted are strong releases. Pure Religion & Bad Company is from 1957 while Heroes of the Blues is a compilation, a few from 1935, then 1957 - '71. There is very little overlap, one song. 

From Heroes of the Blues, Grateful Dead fans will recognize Davis' "Samson and Delilah" and "Death Don't Have No Mercy," two songs they performed during their career. 

 
   
Blues guitar - Reviews and recommendations
Muddy Waters The Chess Box Muddy "Mississippi" Waters Live
Muddy Waters' catalog is vast. There are some early acoustic treasures in the style of Robert Johnson. Though, their output differs in that Muddy's classic early Chess recordings used additional support; bass, piano, etc. Also, Muddy's material included instrumental breaks, but Johnson's generally didn't.

Moving along, there are storied Chess studio electric recordings, his work that Johnny Winter produced, and lots of live treasures, among other gems. 

Muddy Waters' The Chess Box set is highly recommended. I find that his numerous single or the two disc release, The Anthology, leave essential material off due to the length limitations. They do satisfy smaller appetites. Additionally, The Chess Box. has some really good material that is not available elsewhere or is very rare, specifically, some outtakes from the Bill Broonzy sessions on disc 2 and some gems on disc 3 from 1963. This is a really well done release. 

Couple The Chess Box with Muddy "Mississippi" Waters Live, of which there is no overlap.  There are numerous live tracks on the The Chess Box, but a complete live Muddy release is a treasure to be heard.

Visit our Muddy Waters profile

The Anthology: 1947-1972 The Definitive Collection 
Blues guitar - Reviews and recommendations
Allman Brothers Band At Fillmore East
2 discs, 13 songs
Live At The F. East
1 disc, 7 songs
The Allman Brothers play some of the most incredible blues rock. We'll focus primarily on the Duane Allman period, though, the line-up with Warren Haynes and Derek Trucks is noteworthy too (understatement). Fans of Muddy Waters and Elmore James' slide guitar will certainly love Duane Allman too. 

This line-up of the Allman Brothers live concerts typically began with some shorter blues standards to warm-up before diving into some more extended jams. The material includes covers of blues legends, T-Bone Walker, Elmore James, Muddy Waters, Willie Dixon, Blind Willie McTell, among others with stunning results. Really, beyond words. As the concerts progressed, the Allman Brothers stretched out some of these blues numbers as "Stormy Monday" usually clocks in around ten minutes and "You Don't Love Me" closer to twenty with delicious results. 

Fillmore - There are several versions of this release, single disc, expanded, etc.
Fillmore East review

Eat a Peach Deluxe - This classic album was given the Deluxe treatment. A second disc was added that includes a complete concert from 6/27/71. The original album includes both studio material and a few live tracks (supplementing the success of Fillmore East).  
Eat a Peach review

Martin Scorsese Presents The Blues: Allman Brothers - A solid releases of just the blues.

The Allman Brothers Band had several guitar line-ups through their storied career. After the Duane period, I'd rank the band with Warren Haynes and Derek Trucks as the best. Presently, they recorded one studio album, Hittin' the Note, that we highly rate. Their treasured 2003 Beacon run was and released in both DVD and audio.

Before joining the Allman Brothers band, Duane was a session player. There is some good music to explore, more details in our Duane Allman section.

Visit our Allman Brothers Band profile

   
Eat a Peach Deluxe Martin Scorsese Presents...
Live at the Beacon Theatre - DVD One Way Out - CD
 
Blues guitar - Reviews and recommendations
Derek and the Dominos | Eric Clapton Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs The Layla Sessions : 20th Anniversary Edition
Eric Clapton storied career has the blues written throughout it. The absolute best is with Derek and the Dominos. Their studio album, Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs is incredible, and for the more ambitious listener like myself, their box set The Layla Sessions: 20th Anniversary Edition, won't disappoint. 

In addition to Derek and the Dominos, it is opportune to highlight other blues dominant Clapton releases. His recording with John Mayall, Bluesbreakers With Eric Clapton, reminds me a bit of Paul Butterfield Band  (with Michael Bloomfield and Elvin Bishop). 

There are a few compilations to consider too. Eric Clapton: The Blues is a double disc, one side live and the other studio from the 1970's. It doesn't include and Cream or John Mayall from the 1960's. That's OK, pick up those separately as otherwise, it would take a third disc. Martin Scorsese Presents The Blues: Eric Clapton is great music, just not enough of it. 

Also of note are some live recordings. Derek and the Dominos Live at the Fillmore. It does not have Duane Allman in the band. His live box set Crossroads II: Live in the Seventies has loads to offer. Sort of like side two of Eric Clapton: The Blues, just much more.

I wasn't floored by his release of Robert Johnson's covers. His other blues only studio release From the Cradle is very good.

Also consider Howlin' Wolf's The London Howlin' Wolf Sessions that feature Eric Clapton on lead guitar; Wolf's guitarist, Hubert Sublim handles the rhythm guitar duties.

Our Eric Clapton section has more details about all these releases and much more. 

 
Bluesbreakers with Eric Clapton Bluesbreakers with Eric Clapton - Deluxe
Eric Clapton: The Blues Martin Scorsese Presents ...
Blues guitar - Reviews and recommendations
Stevie Ray Vaughan Couldn't Stand the Weather Live at Carnegie Hall
Stevie Ray Vaughan makes the short list. He took the electric blues (more of Albert King than Muddy Waters) and Hendrixified it. I've heard a lot of great musicians perform Hendrix covers and try to imitate his technique. None do it better than Stevie Ray Vaughan, not even close. Of the handful of Hendrix covers, I enjoy Stevie's renditions as much as Jimi's. More stunning is his incorporation of Jimi's technique into his own songs, "Lenny," "Say What," etc., and that is what placed him on this page.

I've included four selections, one studio, one live, and the two top compilation choices, a single and a double. 

Vaughan released four studio albums and they are worthwhile, especially with the bonus material. There is a posthumous release too of studio outtakes through the years. 

Stevie Ray Vaughan has a number of excellent DVD's and his recording, In Session with Albert King is worthwhile.

The Essential Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble The Real Deal: Greatest Hits Vol. 1
 
Blues guitar - Reviews and recommendations
Heroes of the Blues
Blues guitar - Reviews and recommendations
 

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