Lead Belly Road – Lead Belly (Year Unknown)

Lead Belly Road - Lead Belly (Year Unknown)

Like a ghost, you can hear the distant howls of Lead Belly (“Irene, good ni-i-ight, Irene, good nigh'”) in this murky compilation. Lead Bally is such a classic blues singer, of incalculable influence…and yet his music is so damn hard to find in a decent album format. And yet despite the age of the recordings, you can still hear the power, the creativity, the very immortal soul of blues coming through the distressed vinyl and scrub-heavy potato-quality MP3. That’s how Lead Belly is…he transcends shit technology, floating above it way more than his namesake would suggest possible.

Choice Cut: Irene
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Born Under a Bad Sign – Albert King (1967)

Born Under a Bad Sign - Albert King (1967)

Albert King is a quintessential blues singer: a downtrodden, soulful figure who just won’t quit, opting instead to channel his frustration at random misfortune into bluesy swagger. He makes the title track sounds like a blessing in disguise. “If it wasn’t for bad luck, I wouldn’t have no luck at all” (except for that awesome voice). This album has some pretty groovy hooks, too. I particularly like the riff for Crosscut Saw. The Hunter is also a pretty great track, both for its groove and its subtly risque lyrics.

Choice Cut: Born Under a Bad Sign
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Mule Variations – Tom Waits (1999)

Mule Variations - Tom Waits (1999)

Tom Waits has maintained a huge cult following since the ’70s despite never having had a hit, simply because he’s written a gigantic pile of great songs over the past forty years. And if you’re not part of the Tom Waits thing yet, here’s as good of a place as any to get on board. Those who want to hear his insane side will find it on What’s He Building? and Filipino Box Spring Hog, and those who are more into Tom as the jazzy singer-songwriter putting out his cigarette in the ashtray on top of the piano and taking a deep swig of whiskey will love Picture in a Frame.

Choice Cut: Come on Up to the House
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Come Away with Me – Norah Jones (2002)

Come Away with Me - Norah Jones (2002)

Looks like I’ve tapped into the “impress women” side of my collection. My reasons for liking this album are not so superficial, though. This is a beautiful blend of jazz, country, and blues, all with a touch of pop. The vocal delivery is from a divine plane of existence, I swear. This album exudes classiness and feels like a smooth, delicate listen. It’s also a very good way to broaden your horizons from adrenaline-soaked music to something more musically demure.

Choice Cut: Don’t Know Why
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Bone Machine – Tom Waits (1992)

Bone Machine- Tom Waits (1992)

Tom Waits follows up his legendary ’80s trilogy with his twisted, demented vision of blues rock. Earth Died Screaming, In the Colosseum, and Goin’ Out West (which you might remember from Fight Club) not only reinvent the tired genre – it’s turned into the soundtrack to the apocalypse. Even the gospel song Jesus Gonna Be Here sounds like it came out of hell. We also get three of his greatest ballads, Who Are You, A Little Rain, and Whistle Down the Wind, as well the unclassifiable, undeniably moving I Don’t Wanna Grow Up. Tom at his most striking, most violent, and most tender.

Choice Cut: Whistle Down the Wind
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A Bothered Mind – R.L. Burnside (2004)

Album

“R.L. Burnside! I do what I want!” Those first words on the album are all the justification I need for a septuagenarian blues singer to let others mix, scratch, beat, and rap over his Howlin’ Wolf-style swagger. A Bothered Mind is relentlessly modern and unapologetically a novelty. It’s evidence that this old man didn’t just love the music he grew up with, but music in general and all the new ideas that sprung up with time. I aspire to have that attitude as I slide into old age over the next five or six decades.

Choice Cut: Someday Baby
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Hot Dreams- Timber Timbre (2014)

Hot Dreams- Timber Timbre (2014)

Hot Dreams should be the soundtrack to a horror movie set in Montana.  Given that the roots of this album come from a rejected score for The Last Exorcism Part II , that idea makes a lot of sense.  Hot Dreams sounds like a modern version of something made in the 1960’s, and  like We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic, it works out extremely well.  Timber Timbre really struck a unique sound that a lot of other modern folk artists do not have.  Hot Dreams is scary and unique, and that is why I love it.

Buy Album: Amazon (CD · Vinyl) · iTunes MP3

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