Now ever since Clapton and the Rolling Stones, British Blues has had a healthy status in the charts. Eric Clapton still manages to sell out his five-day residencies at the Royal Albert Hall, the Stones still manage to re-issue parts of their back catalogue to satisfactory sales numbers. There was something undoubtedly marketable about that generation, and maybe because they were so prominent, recent generations have struggled to match their success.
Whilst the late 60’s and 70’s leading into the early 80’s were a success for the genre in the UK, the 90’s and 00’s can only be highly regarded by the ability of the older generation to continue to put out good material. Joe Cocker had some of his stronger years around his best charting albums during this period. Have A Little Faith from 1994 and the 2007 album Hymn For My Soul both made it to number 9 in the UK album charts. Eric Clapton managed to augment an already great career in the 90’s with From The Cradle in 1994 and Pilgrim in 1998.
Whilst it was encouraging that some of these British Blues greats had stood the test of time, continually adding to the legacy of British blues, it was disappointing at the lack of blues artists breaking onto the scene. Were newer artists crowded out by the older generation’s dominance? Or were they failing to compete with the emergence of American Blues-Rock? Clearly it wasn’t because Blues was dying a slow and painful death. Not according to Paul Rodgers, Gary Moore, Chris Rea, John Mayall and Jeff Beck.
It is now time to see if the current flock of British artists on the scene can give this genre the resurgence it needs. It was good to hear the news in the last couple of weeks that Ben Poole and Stevie Nimmo both have albums ready and waiting and are embarking on tour together. Ben Poole is a really exciting talent for the blues scene, his Live At The Royal Albert Hall album had a superb sound. He is a young man with a great future ahead of him but now is the time to start pushing on releasing studio albums and playing larger venues.
Aynsley Lister and Danny Bryant have both spent long enough on the back burner, both putting out good material for a number of years. Aynsley Lister’s Tower Sessions from 2010 has for me been his most solid record, with some very satisfying tunes. From the ballad What’s It All About to the riffy With Me Tonight, the album is well worth a listen. He even tops it off with a cover of the Prince classic Purple Rain. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing Aynsley play live in the middle of last year, and he excels in these performances. He has well and truly put in the hard yards and is overdue some prolonged success.
If anyone is beating the British audience’s expectations it is King King. The standard of their 2013 album Standing In The Shadows was very good, but last year’s Reaching For The Light was superb. The album was undoubtedly my favourite album of 2015 with stunning tracks such as the single Hurricane and the catchy You Stopped The Rain. I hope they have enough success off the back of that record to ensure they can push on throughout 2016. I was in possession of a couple of tickets to see them at the Jazz Café back in May last year, and had to pull out at the last minute. Ever since I’ve been watching some of their mesmerising performances on YouTube and hope to catch them again very soon.
Finally, British blues audiences have a great deal of faith invested in Joanne Shaw Taylor. Her most recent album The Dirty Truth was well received and included some very intricate, bluesy guitar work. She played a few gigs on the same bill as Bernie Marsden last year, which would have introduced both artists to newer audiences.
There is a bright future for the British blues, whether that be through the commitment of artists like Eric Clapton, Chris Rea and John Mayall to play the blues to the grave, or whether newer artists like King King, Ben Poole and Joanne Shaw Taylor start taking some market share back from pop music. The UK blues scene has been expanding with newer artists over recent years which has been welcomed by audiences, but will we ever find a Top 10 UK Blues artist again? The answer surely lies with some of the names mentioned here today.