Blues Music Awards 2018 – Nominees Announced

See the full list of nominees for the 2018 Blues Awards


Taj Mahal – photo Jim Jacob


The nominees for the 39th Annual Blues Music Awards have just been announced.  The list encompasses North Mississippi All-Stars’ updated Hill Country stomps and Mavis Staples’ gospel-infused soul as well as Taj Mahal’s global fusion and Kenny Wayne Shepherd’s blues rock.  The Blues Music Awards, which is universally recognized as the top accolade afforded blues musicians, upholds blues’ rich cultural traditions while every year honoring the exceptional achievements in performances, recordings and songwriting.

The Blues Foundation will present the 39th Annual Blues Music Awards on Thursday May 10 2018 at The Memphis Cook Convention Centre.  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 now.  The Blues Foundation’s block of rooms at the Sheraton Memphis Downtown Hotel are open for reservation. 

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” Andersen is 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 BandMiss 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 Collection soundtrack 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 23 to March 1 and ballots will be sent to new members as they join the organization by clicking on the Join Now button when visiting blues.org.

Major funding for the Blues Music Awards is provided by ArtsMemphis and Tennessee Arts Commission.  The 39th BMAs also are sponsored by AutoZone, BMI, Ditty TV, First Tennessee Foundation, Gibson Foundation, and Memphis Convention and Visitors Bureau.

The Blues Foundation is known around the world as being THE organization whose mission is to preserve blues heritage, celebrate blues recording and performance, expand worldwide awareness of the blues, and ensure the future of this uniquely American art form. Founded in 1980, the Memphis-based Blues Foundation has approximately 4,000 individual members and 200 affiliated local blues societies representing another 50,000 fans and professionals around the world. Its signature honors and events – the Blues Music Awards, Blues Hall of Fame, International Blues Challenge and Keeping the Blues Alive Awards – make the Blues Foundation the international center of blues music. For more information, log onto www.blues.org.


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 anTumble

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


Benny Turner

Bob Stroger

Larry Fulcher

Michael “Mudcat” Ward

Patrick Rynn


Jimi Bott

June Core

Kenny Smith

Tom Hambridge

Tony Braunagel


Anson Funderburgh

Chris Cain

Christoffer “Kid” Andersen

Monster Mike Welch

Ronnie Earl


Billy Branch

Dennis Gruenling

Jason Ricci

Kim Wilson

Rick Estrin


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


Mavis Staples – photo Jim Jacob

See the full list of nominees for the 2018 Blues Awards


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Author: Rob Dickens

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