40th Annual Blues Music Awards at Cook Convention Center

C. Michael Bailey By

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40th Annual Blues Music Awards
Memphis Cook Convention Center
Memphis, Tennessee
May 9, 2019

Mississippi writer David L. Cohn, in his 1948 book, Where I was Born and Raised (Houghton, Mifflin), defines the length of the Mississippi Delta thusly:

The Mississippi Delta begins in the lobby of the Peabody Hotel in Memphis and ends on Catfish Row in Vicksburg.

That is as good a description of the Romantic still life that has served as the backdrop for the origin of what is called blues music for the last century and earlier. As such it is one dimensional.

Let's expand this definition into two-dimensions by considering a line originating in Memphis and ending in Vicksburg. As the crow flies, that is about an even 200 miles. Fixing our starting point in Memphis, let's rotate that straight line 360 degrees, forming a circle with Memphis as its center. It is not unreasonable to consider Memphis as the ground zero, the singularity, of American Music. We can consider the circle surrounding the city as its event horizon, everything contained within that circle forever in the orbit of Memphis.

The density of important musical locations within this area is impressive. It is sacrum terram to the history of popular music, all genres having a subatomic nucleus of the blues, that indivisible element present in all of American Music. It is wholly appropriate, if not divinely sanctioned, that the Blues Foundation, the Blues Hall of Fame, and the Annual Blues Music Awards have their home in this musical singularity that is Memphis.

The Blues Music Awards celebrated its 40th anniversary this year. The awards ceremony is the climax of a three-day event that included exhibits (The Blues According to Arhoolie), a book signing (Tammy L. Turner's Dick Waterman—A Life in Blues [University Press of Mississippi, 2019]), and the Blues Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony, which saw induction of Aretha Franklin, Count Basie, Pee Wee Crayton, Booker T. & the MG's, Ida Cox, and Moe Asch.

The Classic of Blues Literature was awarded to Lost Delta Found: Rediscovering the Fisk University Library of congress Coahoma County Study, 1941-1942 by John W. Work, Lewis Wade Jones, and Samuel C. Adams, Jr.; Edited by Robert Gordon and Bruce Nemerov (University of Vanderbilt Press, 2004). The Classic of Blues Recording Album was given to Elmore James: the Sky is Crying (Sphere Sound, 1965). The Classic of Blues Recording Singles included: Muddy Waters, "Rolling Stone" (Chess, 1950); Elmore James, "Shake Your Money Maker" (Fire, 1961); Ray Charles, "I Got A Woman" (Atlantic, 1954); B. B. King, "Everyday I Have The Blues" (RPM, 1954); Bessie Smith, "St. Louis Blues" (Columbia, 1925).

The Awards ceremony was eventful with performances by many of the nominees, most notably: Hadden Sayers, Eric Gales, Rory Block, and Bobby Rush. The master of ceremonies was capably handled by Little Steven Van Zandt with award presentations by Latimore, Maria Muldaur, and Kenny Wayne Shepherd. The quality of the Awards show was seamless and pristine while still being downhome. This was an event.

2019 Blues Music Award Nominees and Winners

Acoustic Album

A Woman's Soul, Rory Block
Black Cowboys, Dom Flemons
Global Griot, Eric Bibb
Journeys To The Heart Of The Blues, Joe Louis Walker/Bruce Katz/Giles Robson
Wish The World Away, Ben Rice

Acoustic Artist

Ben Rice
Guy Davis
Hadden Sayers
Harrison Kennedy
Rory Block

Album of the Year

America's Child, Shemekia Copeland
The High Cost Of Low Living, The Nick Moss Band Featuring Dennis Gruenling
Journeys To The Heart Of The Blues, Joe Louis Walker/Bruce Katz/Giles Robson
Rough Cut, Curtis Salgado and Alan Hager
Why Did You Have To Go, Anthony Geraci

B. B. King Entertainer of the Year

Beth Hart
Bobby Rush
Lil' Ed Williams
Michael Ledbetter
Sugaray Rayford

Band of the Year

Anthony Geraci & The Boston Blues All-Stars
Larkin Poe
Lil' Ed & the Blues Imperials
Nick Moss Band
Welch-Ledbetter Connection

Best Emerging Artist

Burn Me Alive, Heather Newman
Free, Amanda Fish
Heartland And Soul, Kevin Burt
Tough As Love, Lindsay Beaver
Wish The World Away, Ben Rice

Blues Rock Album

The Big Bad Blues, Billy F Gibbons
High Desert Heat, Too Slim and the Taildraggers
Live At The '62 Center, Albert Cummings
Poor Until Payday, The Reverend Peyton's Big Damn Band
Winning Hand, Tinsley Ellis

Blues Rock Artist

Billy F Gibbons
Eric Gales
J.P. Soars
Kenny Wayne Shepherd
Tinsley Ellis

Contemporary Blues Album

America's Child, Shemekia Copeland
Belle Of The West, Samantha Fish
Chicago Plays The Stones, The Living History Band
Hold On, Kirk Fletcher
Wild Again, The Proven Ones

Contemporary Blues Female Artist

Beth Hart
Danielle Nicole
Samantha Fish
Shemekia Copeland
Vanessa Collier

Contemporary Blues Male Artist

Kenny Neal
Rick Estrin
Ronnie Baker Brooks
Selwyn Birchwood
Toronzo Cannon


Danielle Nicole
Michael "Mudcat" Ward
Patrick Rynn
Scot Sutherland
Willie J. Campbell



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