We are very excited for many obvious reasons to start fresh in 2021, but are truly grateful and appreciative of the outstanding feedback we received from all of the music journalists and radio on our 2020 blues releases! We are so proud of our blues artists and their recordings, and the year-end rankings, feature articles and reviews, and the top of the charts blues radio airplay were well deserved and gratifying to experience.
We would love to share some of the highlights of the reviews of Delmark’s 2020 blues recordings.
Jimmy Johnson continues to amaze and inspire so many and releases his first album as a Delmark leader since 1982 (!) We recently had a very wonderful and successful 92nd Birthday celebration for Jimmy that was live streamed all over the world from Delmark’s Riverside studios. And even though there are no live shows at the clubs and fests right now, you can catch Jimmy perform live every Saturday, live streaming at 2pm from his home studio. Jimmy Johnson was reviewed in many publications, including a big feature in the Guitar Magazine Japan, Wall Street Journal, The Chicago Sun-Times, Vintage Guitar, and Tahoe On Stage.
“At age 91, the Chicago bluesman cuts his greatest album. Jimmy Johnson now carries a lighter guitar but his voice remains smooth as silk and his soft touch on the strings are as biting as the Hawk blowing of icy Lake Michigan.” TAHOE ON STAGE – BEST BLUES CD OF THE YEAR!
“Several others like to claim the title, but 91-year-old Jimmy Johnson is almost certainly our oldest active bluesman, and his chops—vocal and instrumental—remain virtually undiminished after over 60 years of work as both sideman and leader. His guitar work, aggressive and deeply emotional, is also enriched with jazz-tinged sophistication, and his keening, high-tenor voice remains striking and immediately recognizable… this release is a must-hear—Jimmy Johnson is really a bit of a miracle, and it’s one that we’re all blessed to be able to share. “- Living Blues
As Jimmy says in the title track, “live “Every Day Of Your Life” like it’s your last!”
Johnny Burgin, “The Worldwide West Side Guitar Man” never ceases to amaze with his dedicated passion, immense talent, and tireless energy. Before the pandemic, Johnny was performing 250+ gigs in a year, collaborating with bluesmen and women from all over the world, truly living up to his new nickname. Johnny and his partner and producer Stephanie Tice just released this ambitious and thrilling new release, which is the first ever American compilation of the Japanese blues scene. Be sure to check out Johnny and Stephanie’s new No Border Blues podcast as they conduct fascinating interviews with the talented blues friends they’ve made from all of their blues globe trotting! Johnny’s hard work kept him on top of the radio charts for the entire year, and he was featured in many prominent publications, like Vintage Guitar, Chicago Sun-Times, Blues In Britain, Tahoe On Stage, Blues Blast, and much more.
“No Border Blues is a powerful collection by a master which shows how this iconic American genre transcends borders, culture and language.” Bill Turck, WCGO AM
“No Border Blues is gloriously loose, earthy, and immediate Chicago Blues… stellar fretwork.” Vintage Guitar
“Put on this album and close your eyes. What you hear will make you think you are sitting in a vintage Chicago blues club on the South or West side circa 1960 while listening to a classic Carey Bell number sung by a voice that resembles that of Junior Wells. No small feat for a record that was actually recorded last year in Osaka, Japan by a group of Windy City blues devotees, most of whom have never visited the 312 area code.”- Chicago Blues Guide
“This is so raw, that at times you may yearn for blues a bit cleaner, yet therein lies the beauty of this recording. Let it rip, play it loud, and rattle yours and your neighbor’s walls.” Glide Magazine
“An original indigenous American music, derived from Africa, blues is now deservedly popular in much of the world. Kudos to Johnny Burgin and these musicians for keeping it vibrant in Japan”- Big City Rhythm & Blues
“The Hoochie Man” is definitely one of the Chicago blues world’s best entertainers and most talented veteran real deal bluesman. And we are so excited we captured him live in his element, at an intimate, funky legendary Chicago blues club, Rosa’s Lounge, one of our all time favorite places to experience Chicago blues.
“Who knew that we would need a stellar live album of Chicago blues to get us through this difficult period of shuttered businesses and boarded up windows? We can depend on legendary labels like Delmark and great performers such as Linsey Alexander to deliver during these uncertain times. Music is essential and can still be appreciated in an era where social distancing and masked faces are required. The blues is still alright and always will be!”- Chicago Blues Guide
“Few people in the world deliver real-deal Chicago blues better than Linsey Alexander, a native of Holly Springs, Miss., who’s been an institution in the Windy City since his arrival in 1960. Now age 77, he’s still at the very top of his game in this live set…A true blues master makes it sound easy, and Linsey’s one of the best. If you love traditional Chicago blues, run – don’t walk – to get this one. It’s that good!”- Blues Blast
“What is striking from the outset is his piercing single note guitar style, a musical gift he has honed over the years, and one that makes him stand out on the crowded Chicago blues scene.” – Blues & Rhythm
“This is a career defining live recording from the folks at Delmark that should bring Alexander the love and respect he deserves.”- Making A Scene
Chicago blues piano wizard, Johnny Iguana, has truly released a spectacular blues recording that is his first ever blues album as a leader. Look at the all-star lineup of legends he assembled that helped to make Chicago Spectacular! top the radio charts and land on many prestigious critics’ lists of Best CD of the year! Billy Boy Arnold, John Primer, Lil’ Ed, Billy Flynn, Matthew Skoller, Bob Margolin, Bill Dickens, Phillip Michael-Scales, Michael Caskey, & Kenny Smith.
“Chicago pianist extraordinaire Johnny Iguana leads this all-star band, a quartet of dazzling musicians each with an illustrious musical past. They come together now as a fireball of blues-fusion energy and invention…a new American roots band unlike anything else on the scene today. Along with special guests from the upper echelon of the Chicago blues scene, the band have made a big splash with their self-titled Delmark Records debut. They break down genre barriers with a combustible combination of piano blues classics (fresh takes on Otis Spann, Memphis Slim and more) and new originals (which recall everything from Gershwin to Raymond Scott to Les McCann). Now, the formidable quartet are set to take their one-of-a-kind piano-powered show to the festivals and theaters of the world. ” JOHNNY IGUANA’S CHICAGO SPECTACULAR!
“The fingers of Johnny Iguana point the blues towards its future” – The Alternate Root
“Rollicking…deeply expressive…astounding…defies easy classification….a cohesive and splendidly satisfying whole.” – Living Blues
“A blues album like no other, being traditional yet utterly contemporary.”- Big City Rhythm & Blues
“Nothing short of spectacular…barrels down the highway, careening between lanes as Iguana fires on all cylinders….cooks throughout….A treat awaits!” – Chicago Blues Guide
“He has become a performer like no other, a totally unique pianist who is recognizable in everything he does….Exquisite self-composed instrumentals are served…rock hard blues piano of the highest quality….This is definitely one of this year’s best albums for me. There is tradition and innovation in beautiful union. Recommended without reservation. BBBBBB (highest rating: Six out of six B’s)” – BLUES NEWS NORWAY
“Skillfully blends classic Chicago blues from the 1950s with a freer, jazzier approach a la Ramsey Lewis…catch phrases can’t be used to describe this…This album rises to the occasion and needs to be recognized, especially one as invigorating as this….(4 out of 5 stars)” – SOUL BAG
“A modern approach to the blues, although it has touches that are reminiscent of the old glories of the boogie-woogie….it’s spectacular, it’s risky…a piano album like no other.” – Historias Del Blues, Bogota, Colombia
“Sultry and steamy…extremely swinging…effortlessly bounces from blues to funk and even to classical…unstoppable boogie-woogie with a booming, almost bombastic sound.…The variation of this album is also its great strength…a wonderful blues album!” – Bluestown Music (Holland)
“As the title Chicago Spectacular suggests, it’s a riotous celebration of the Windy City…an album that shows how vibrant Chicago blues can be….Iguana finds a sweet spot between jumping piano R&B and gutbucket blues, placing the rhythm in the forefront and keeping things lively and swinging throughout. The result is a blast, an album that celebrates Chicago traditions while tweaking them with a big grin.” – ALL MUSIC
Hot on the heels of his wildly successful 2019 recording, Blues From The Inside Out, guitar ace Dave Specter collaborates with the world’s premier Chicago blues harmonica player Billy Branch on a powerful new protest song, “The Ballad of George Floyd.” Both artists were interviewed about this poignant song for the upcoming February blues issue in DownBeat
“I’ve come to realize that channeling my thoughts and my expression through music is really an important part of who I am. And I think it’s a really good outlet for me to use my music to write and create, based on, unfortunately, the turmoil and troubles that are happening in this country. The events surrounding George Floyd’s death were so shocking to me that the song pretty much wrote itself.” – Dave Specter
Billy Branch, who jumped at the opportunity when Specter asked, says the times demand more from musicians amid the COVID-19 pandemic and social unrest, citing Specter’s voice and his lyrics, along with the optics of the times. “We’re in this era right now where you’re seeing a lot of social and political commentary come from musicians, and it’s a reflection of the times,” said Branch
-From a big feature on the digital single in THE CHICAGO SUN-TIMES
“I wrote the song a few days after George Floyd was murdered and the lyrics pretty much wrote themselves. George Floyd didn’t die in vain. He helped spark a worldwide movement for justice and change. I’m proud to collaborate with the great Chicago bluesman Billy Branch on this tune. We share the same vision and are inspired by the words of John Lewis: ‘If it hadn’t been for music, the civil rights movement would’ve been like a bird without wings.’”– Dave Specter
“Specter wrote these haunting lyrics of sorrow concerning centuries of injustice and bigotry, mere days after the murder of George Floyd. He reminds us that the knee is the new noose, and that it’s past time we bring about a change. “Blind men in power pouring gasoline on a burning fire.” The words, harp, and organ themselves burn together slowly but fiercely. The names of Garner, Rice, McDonald, Arbery, and Brown are recited in the song to also remind that they didn’t die in vain. Say their names.”- American Blues Scene“Music can be a catalyst for change. It has a rare ability to make people feel something that words may not do justice. It can supply a voice, when we feel unheard. It can speak to us, when we feel alone. In times of trouble, it can give us hope. In today’s world, there is a lot to be upset about. Whether it be the current pandemic, our government, or the social injustices that become more and more clear everyday, it can be overwhelming.”- Chicago Music Guide
Be sure to check out Dave Specter‘s absolutely fascinating long running podcast series of interviews with his long list of friends in the music world, BLUES FROM THE INSIDE OUT!
And lastly we have to thank everyone around the world for your outpouring of love and condolences while we are all still in shock and reeling from the sudden death of rising star Chicago bluesman and son of Muddy Waters, Joseph “Mojo” Morganfield. We have to stay positive and are elated about the continued success of the new single, “It’s Good To Be King” featuring fellow Chicago blues stars, Ronnie Baker Brooks on guitar (fellow Son of the Blues, son of Lonnie), Billy Branch on harp, Brother John Kattke on keys, and Rick Kreher (Muddy Waters‘ last guitarist) on rhythm guitar! It was #1 on the Roots Music Report‘s song charts, and a big writeup in the Chicago Sun-Times was published just 2 days before his devastatingly sad passing.
“The irrepressible, quintessentially Chicago-style blues track was recorded by Morganfield and his combo, the Mannish Boyz. “What the song says to me,” Morganfield said, “is that every person has their castle: family, friends and the things you surround yourself with. A person should feel like a king or queen when everything is going right — when the mojo is working. It doesn’t happen often, but when it does, enjoy it.”- Chicago Sun-Times
As we continue to grieve the tragic loss of Joseph “Mojo” Morganfield, Delmark Records is honored to share the lyric video for his song “It’s Good To Be King.” Mojo was a beloved and inspiring voice in today’s blues and we mourn his passing deeply. This video is a tribute to his memory, which shines on into the future. Check it out here
The Morganfield family is requesting that donations be made to the Muddy Waters “Mojo Museum.” All funds will be used for the rehab and preservation of Muddy Waters’ home. Mojo lived in the home as a child, before moving to Westmont. The home is located at 4339 S. Lake Park Ave., Chicago, IL 60653. Please visit: www.mojomuseum.com
I wanted to wish a very happy and healthy new year to all of our Delmark friends and family in the music world, and especially to all of our Delmark blues artists who have recorded as a leader, including Jimmy Johnson, Dave Specter, Tad Robinson, Syl Johnson, Lurrie Bell, Johnny B. Moore, Byther Smith, Jimmy Burns, Johnny Burgin, Ken Saydak, Tail Dragger, Steve Freund, Zora Young, Shirley Johnson, Frank Morey, Dave Clark, Charles Wilson, Mississippi Heat, Willie Buck, Dave Weld, Studebaker John, Grana’ Louise, Demetria Taylor, Sharon Lewis, Toronzo Cannon, Linsey Alexander, Mike Wheeler, Giles Corey, Omar Coleman, Guy King, Corey Dennison, Billy Flynn, Breezy Rodio, and many more friends such as Buddy Guy, Billy Boy Arnold, Bob Stroger, Billy Branch, John Primer, Lil’ Ed, Roosevelt Purifoy, Harlan Terson, Kenny Smith, Brother John Kattke, Carl Weathersby, Maurice John Vaughn, E.G. McDaniel, Rick Kreher, Scott Dirks, Pookie Styx, Deitra Farr, Matthew Skoller, Melvin Smith, Willie Hayes, Sax Gordon, Charlie Musselwhite, Gerry Hundt, Martin Lang, Steve Bell, Rico McFarland, The Chicago Horns, and many more!
- Peace and Love, Kevin “Proud Papa” Johnson, Delmark promotions