The blues has always been rich in tradition and history, from Robert Johnson’s deal with the devil, to BB Kings mammoth tours, the genre truly is the catalyst for legends. However, for a long time the blues stagnated, losing ground to new genre’s rather than change with the times. With the exception of Gary Moore’s early 90’s efforts ‘Still got the blues’ and ‘After hours’, the genre saw very little commercial success in the final 2 decades of the 20th century.
But change came with 2006’s Continuum by John Mayer, this marked a departure from tradition for the blues, something that the new guard have taken advantage of. Leaving behind the restraints that for so long defined the bluesman, and instead creating a new breed that cannot be restricted by the past.
Perhaps the epitome of this new kind of bluesman is Gary Clarke JR, a man who has been threatening to set the blues world alight for several years. This Texan perfectly displays how the blues has influenced virtually every popular music genre of the last 60 years. 2015’s track ‘The Healing’ is a perfect fusion of hip hop, soul, and blues music that is unapologetically raw, while the single ‘Bright lights’ is an atmospheric blues anthem that deals with the downside of fame.
Rag’N’Bone man would perhaps be considered too abstract to be a true bluesman, he is certainly one of the most contemporary artists to emerge from the new blues movement, using Hip Hop and dark themes very effectively. However with such unique style and a fantastic voice, this is an artist that cannot easily be ignored.
At 25, Davy Knowles should be too young to play the blues with the sincerity that he does, hailing from the Isle of Man this virtuoso has wowed fans all over the globe and has even supported rock super group Chickenfoot. With a sound that is very similar to the great Stevie Ray Vaughn, but an arrogance displayed on stage that sets this young star apart from the crowd.
The Alabama Shakes are by no means new to the scene, however their truly unique blend of dirty blues riffs, soulful chorus’, and vocals that would make Janis Joplin jealous, have catapulted this band to heights that no blues band has achieved for quite some time. With catchy tracks like ‘Don’t Wanna Fight’ and beautiful ballads such as ‘Over My Head’, there is nothing this band can’t do with the blues and still sound authentic.
This July ‘The Alabama Shakes’ will support ‘Mumford and Sons’ at Hyde parks ‘British Summer Time Festival’, something that the Mumford boys may be feeling quite nervous about given the quality live performances this band are capable of.
The blues may be in better shape now than they have been for decades thanks to a little help from the many genre’s it’s spawned. If Robert Johnson did sell his sole to the devil, then he may just think it was worthy investment given the legacy he has helped to create.
This article was written by Harrison Moore, a GIGsoup contributor