Blues Awards Nominees Announced

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. – The nominees for the 39th Annual Blues Music Awards  to be held on Thursday May 10 at the Memphis Cook Convention Center have been announced. The nominees encompass the North Mississippi All-Stars’ updated Hill Country stomps, Mavis Staples’ gospel-infused soul as well as Taj Mahal’s eclectic global fusion and Kenny Wayne Shepherd’s fiery blues rock. The Blues Music Awards honours achievements in performances, recordings and songwriting. 
Leading the nomination pack for this year’s BMAs is harmonica wizard Rick Estrin. With his group The Nightcats, Estrin is up for Band of the Year, as well as Album of the Year and Traditional Blues Album for Groovin’ In Greaseland. Estrin, a past BMA winner, also is up for Traditional Blues Male Artist, Best Instrumentalist: Harmonica, B.B. King Entertainer of the Year and Song of the Year for his tune “The Blues Ain’t Going Nowhere.” Additionally, Nightcats’ guitarist Christoffer “Kid” Andersenis among the Instrumentalist-Guitar contenders. 
The B.B. King Entertainer of the Year and Song of the Year look to be hotly contested categories because they feature acts with multiple nominations. Don Bryant (4 nominations) and Wee Willie Walker (5 noms) are contenders in both categories. Estrin, meanwhile, faces the duo Mike Ledbetter and Monster Mike Welch for Album of the Year, Traditional Blues Album, and Band of the Year. Ledbetter also is a B.B. King Entertainer of the Year contender and is in the running for Contemporary Blues Male Artist and Instrumentalist–Vocals, while Welch ranks among the Instrumentalist–Guitar finalists. Another multiple nominee, The North Mississippi All-Stars will battle Estrin and Ledbetter & Welch for Band of the Year and are competing for Song of the Year and Rock Blues Album honors too. 
This year, the Blues Foundation will be handing out 26 BMAs as they have added a pair of new categories. There now is a Blues Rock Artist of the Year award to go along with Blues Rock Album of the Year. Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Mike Zito, Walter Trout, Jason Ricci and Eric Gales are all candidates for this honor. The other new category is Instrumentalist-Vocals, which will honor the great voices that make songs so memorable. Beth Hart, Don Bryant, John Nemeth, Michael Ledbetter, Sugaray Rayford and Wee Willie Walker compose this category’s impressive list of performers. 
Several winners from last year’s BMAs are back among 2018’s nominees. Curtis Salgado, a triple winner in 2017, will try to retain his Soul Blues Male Artist award, while Diunna Greenleaf and Lurrie Bell, the reigning Female and Male Traditional Blues Artists respectively, are returnees in those categories. Bobby Rush, who took home Best Album and Best Historical Album honors last year, is one of the B.B. King Entertainer of the Year candidates. 2017’s Acoustic Artist of the Year Doug MacLeod now is an Acoustic Album of the Year nominee. Multiple BMA winner Kim Wilson will attempt to hold on to his Instrumental: Harmonica crown in conjunction with nominations for Traditional Blues Album, Blues and Boogie Vol.1, and Traditional Blues Male Artist while another multi-BMA honoree Victor Wainwright has a chance to win the Instrumentalist Pinetop Perkins Piano Player again.
The Best Emerging Artist Album category offers a snapshot of blues’ multi-generational, geographically diverse appeal. Nominees include a couple of young acts: the Southern multi-instrumentalist blues duo Larkin Poe composed of the Atlanta-bred, Nashville-based Lovell Sisters, and Southern Avenue, a power-packed Memphis band whose debut disc came out on their hometown Stax Records. The Altered Five Blues Band, Miss Freddye, and Tas Cru are regional success stories (Milwaukee, Buffalo, and Upstate New York, respectively) that are attracting more attention in the music world. Lastly, there’s the second-ever album from R.L. Boyce, who has lived, and made music, in Mississippi’s Hill Country for over five decades. 
Blues’ vibrant heritage is wonderfully demonstrated in the five choices for Historical Album of the Year. Live at Notodden ’97 presents a previously unissued Norwegian blues festival live recording that captures the Paul deLay Band in their prime. Sony Legacy’s American Epic: The Collectionsoundtrack fills five discs with blues and all sorts of other Americana sounds from the acclaimed PBS TV series. Commemorating the 20th anniversary of his death, Luther Allison: A Legend Never Dies 1976-1997 represents Ruf Records’ comprehensive Luther Allison boxset, boasting 7 CDs and 4 DVDs. Craft Records compiled 100 John Lee Hooker songs (including rarities, live recordings and several previously unreleased tracks) into King of the Boogie to celebrate Hooker’s centennial anniversary. Craft also put together Mr. Luck: The Complete Vee-Jay Singles, a 3-CD feast of Jimmy Reed’s work from the early 1950s through the mid-1960s.  
The complete list of 39th Blues Music Award nominees can be found below as well as on the Blues Foundation’s website, www.blues.org. A ballot will be sent soon to all Blues Foundation members as they have the privilege of deciding which nominees actually will take home a Blues Music Award in May. Membership to The Blues Foundation will remain open through the entire voting period from January 23rd to March 1st and ballots will be sent to new members as they join the organisation by clicking on the Join Now button when visiting blues.org.
Blues Awards information: Individual tickets cost $150 per person; Regular Tables for 10 are $1,500 and Premium Tables for 10 are $1,800 each. All tickets can be purchased at www.blues.org beginning January 9th. The Blues Foundation’s block of rooms at the Sheraton Memphis Downtown Hotel will be open for reservations on January 9th; and Sheraton reservation links will be up on blues.org that day too. The Awards show is a premier event for blues musicians, professionals, and fans around the globe because not only do almost all the nominees attend the ceremony but they typically perform at it too.
39th Blues Music Award Nominees
Acoustic Album of the Year
Catfish Keith – Mississippi River Blues
Doug MacLeod – Break the Chain
Guy Davis & Fabrizio Poggi – Sonny & Brownie’s Last Train
Harrison Kennedy – Who U Tellin’?
Mitch Woods – Friends Along The Way
Rory Block – Keepin’ Outta Trouble
Acoustic Artist
Doug McLeod
Guy Davis
Harrison Kennedy
Rory Block
Taj Mahal
Album of the Year
Don Bryant – Don’t Give Up on Love
Monster Mike Welch and Mike Ledbetter – Right Place, Right Time
Rick Estrin & The Nightcats – Groovin’ In Greaseland
TajMo – TajMo
Wee Willie Walker & The Anthony Paule Soul Orchestra – After a While
Band of the Year
The Cash Box Kings
Monster Mike Welch and Mike Ledbetter
Nick Moss Band
North Mississippi All-Stars
Rick Estrin & the Nightcats
B.B. King Entertainer of the Year
Bobby Rush
Michael Ledbetter
Rick Estrin
Sugaray Rayford
Taj Mahal
Best Emerging Artist Album
Altered Five Blues Band – Charmed & Dangerous
Larkin Poe – Peach
Miss Freddye – Lady of the Blues
R.L. Boyce – Roll and Tumble
Southern Avenue – Southern Avenue
Tas Cru – Simmered & Stewed
Contemporary Blues Album of the Year
Beth Hart – Fire on the Floor
Corey Dennison Band – Night After Night
Ronnie Baker Brooks – Times Have Changed
Selwyn Birchwood – Pick Your Poison
TajMo – TajMo
Contemporary Blues Female Artist
Beth Hart
Karen Lovely
Samantha Fish
Shemekia Copeland
Vanessa Collier
Contemporary Blues Male Artist
Keb’ Mo’
Michael Ledbetter
Ronnie Baker Brooks
Selwyn Birchwood
Toronzo Cannon
Historical Album of the Year
Jimmy Reed, Mr. Luck: The Complete Vee-Jay Singles – Craft Recordings
John Lee Hooker, King of the Boogie – Craft Recordings
Luther Allison, A Legend Never Dies – Ruf Records
The Paul deLay Band, Live at Notodden ’97 – Little Village Foundation
Various, American Epic: The Collection – Sony Legacy
Instrumental-Bass
Benny Turner
Bob Stroger
Larry Fulcher
Michael “Mudcat” Ward
Patrick Rynn
Instrumentalist-Drums
Jimi Bott
June Core
Kenny Smith
Tom Hambridge
Tony Braunagel
Instrumentalist-Guitar
Anson Funderburgh
Chris Cain
Christoffer “Kid” Andersen
Monster Mike Welch
Ronnie Earl
Instrumentalist-Harmonica
Billy Branch
Dennis Gruenling
Jason Ricci
Kim Wilson
Rick Estrin
Instrumentalist-Horn
Al Basile
Jimmy Carpenter
Nancy Wright
Trombone Shorty
Vanessa Collier
Instrumentalist- Pinetop Perkins Piano Player
Anthony Geraci
Henry Gray
Jim Pugh
Mitch Woods
Victor Wainwright
Instrumentalist – Vocals
Beth Hart
Don Bryant
John Németh
Michael Ledbetter
Sugaray Rayford
Wee Willie Walker
Koko Taylor Award (Traditional Blues Female)
Annika Chambers
Diunna Greenleaf
Janiva Magness
Miss Freddye
Ruthie Foster
Rock Blues Album of the Year
Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band – Lay It On Down
Mike Zito – Make Blues Not War
North Mississippi Allstars – Prayer for Peace
Savoy Brown – Witchy Feelin’
Walter Trout – We’re All In This Together
Rock Blues Artist
Eric Gales
Jason Ricci
Kenny Wayne Shepherd
Mike Zito
Walter Trout
Song of the Year
“The Blues Ain’t Going Nowhere” – written by Rick Estrin
“Don’t Give Up On Love” – written by Scott Bomar and Don Bryant
“Don’t Leave Me Here” – written by Kevin R. Moore, Taj Mahal, and Gary Nicholson
“Hate Take a Holiday” – written by Willie Walker, Anthony Paule, and Ernie Williams
“Prayer for Peace” – written by Luther Dickinson, Cody Dickinson, and Oteil Burbridge
Soul Blues Album of the Year
Don Bryant – Don’t Give Up on Love
Johnny Rawls – Waiting for the Train
Robert Cray & Hi Rhythm – Robert Cray & Hi Rhythm
Sugaray Rayford – The World That We Live In
Wee Willie Walker & The Anthony Paule Soul Orchestra – After a While
Soul Blues Female Artist
Bettye LaVette
Denise LaSalle
Mavis Staples
Trudy Lynn
Vaneese Thomas
Soul Blues Male Artist
Curtis Salgado
Don Bryant
Johnny Rawls
Sugaray Rayford
William Bell
Wee Willie Walker
Traditional Blues Album of the Year
The Cash Box Kings – Royal Mint
Elvin Bishop’s Big Fun Trio – Elvin Bishop’s Big Fun Trio
Kim Wilson – Blues and Boogie Vol. 1
Monster Mike Welch and Mike Ledbetter – Right Place, Right Time
Rick Estrin & The Nightcats – Groovin’ In Greaseland
Various Artists – Howlin’ At Greaseland
Traditional Blues Female Artist
Annika Chambers
Diunna Greenleaf
Janiva Magness
Miss Freddye
Ruthie Foster
Traditional Blues Male Artist
John Primer
Kim Wilson
Lurrie Bell
R.L. Boyce
Rick Estrin
Brian Wise

Brian Wise was the Editor of Addicted To Noise‘s Australian site from 1997 – 2002. The site won two ONYA Awards as Best Online Music Magazine in 1999 & 2000. He has also been Editor since its reincarnation in 2013. He also presents the weekly music interview program Off The Record on 102.7 Triple R-FM (rrr.org.au) in Melbourne. It is networked to 45+ stations across Australia on the Community Radio Network and is a four-time winner of the Best Music Program Award from the Community Broadcasting Association of Australia. In 2012, it was nominated as a finalist in the Excellence in Music Programming category. Brian was also the Founding Editor & Publisher of Rhythms Magazine and is now its Senior Contributing Editor.

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