Blues artists -- like real, legitimate rhythm-and-blues players -- aren't in the headlines very often these days. But whenever they are, Rocks Off is both happy and proud to point out that unlike most other places, Houston still has quite a few of them, many of whom continue to do excellent work.
Those include local guitarist Milton Hopkins and singer Jewel Brown, whose album from last year, Milton Hopkins with Jewel Brown, is up for the Best Traditional Blues Album at the Blues Foundation's annual Blues Music Awards, which will be presented tonight at the Cook Convention Center in downtown Memphis.
Brown and Hopkins' album was released on Austin blues/gospel label Dialtone Records last May. Rocks Off wound up naming it as our personal favorite Houston release of 2012.
"Just to remind all you kids out there -- he said, shaking his cane from the front porch -- there is a scene out there far, far away from Mango's, Walters and Fitzgerald's," we wrote in December. "These two seasoned Houston R&B performers poured about a century's worth of experience, give or take, into an album of what we call 'grown folks' music,' and it's good.
It really is. Also nominated in that category are the Heritage Blues Orchestra (And Still I Rise), the Mannish Boys (Double Dynamite), Muddy Waters' son Mud Morganfield (Son of the Seventh Son) and Eddie C. Campbell for an album we have simply got to hear, Spider Eating Preacher. Austin's Gary Clark Jr. is nominated for Contemporary Blues Album for Blak & Blu.
Both Brown and fellow Houstonian Diunna Greenleaf are nominated for the Koko Taylor Award for Traditional Blues Female. The final local nominee this year is Charles "CD" Davis, who is up for Best New Artist Debut behind his album 24 Hour Blues.
However, the guitarist is not a "new artist" at all -- Davis spent a decade in the late Houston trumpeter and bandleader Calvin Owens' big-band R&B ensemble, and recruited many of the orchestra's players for his album, as well as the singers Trudy Lynn, Roberta Donnay, Jabo and Rue Davis.
The satellite-radio channel B.B. King's Bluesville will broadcast tonight's awards on Sirius/XM 74, with a PBS broadcast to follow at a later date (check local listings).
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Good luck to everyone involved.