11 Albums to Help You Explore the Blues

Vinyl record collection / Orin Zebest
Orin Zebest
I've spent the past few weeks debating the merits of Vinyl (seven reasons) versus CD (five reasons) for those of us that still collect music (my final verdict is that both have great qualities, but CD is still better).

It's been a fun little debate, but it doesn't really matter how you listen. It doesn't even matter if you have an actual collection. Digital. Analog. CD. DVD. Youtube. Spotify. Radio. Whatever. The important thing is the music itself. The art. In other words, what really matter is WHAT you are putting in your ears.

So rather than rile up another debate this week, lets see if I can't help expand your musical knowledge. Read on and I'll help you start your journey down the road of one of America's great musical contributions: The Blues.

See also:
- Record Store Geek: You Can't Grow Up on Rock Alone. Nine Swingin' Jazz Albums.
- Record Store Geek: Five Signs That You May Be a Music Junkie.

What Do You Know About the Blues, North Dakota Boy?

I don't claim to be the ultimate blues historian or anything, but I can tell you this much:

After twenty-six years in record stores, I've listened to a shitload of blues (and experienced them a few times as well). New. Old. Fast. Slow. Up and down.

I've spent more than a few hours in the clubs -- I even started dating my wife after a visit to the Rhythm Room -- and I've seen all levels of players. I've bought and sold CDs and LPs to and from some of the biggest blues fans in the Valley. I've got a very solid blues collection (on CD and LP).

In a nutshell, I'm a blues fan. Hopefully that qualifies me to recommend some albums.

What you will see listed is stuff that I actually own and play frequently (unless otherwise noted), so it will lean towards my blues preferences, which are generally more upbeat and guitar-driven. However, being the responsible record store geek (oxymoron alert) that I am, I'll try to cover as many bases as I can.

You ready to get the blues?

11 Albums to Help Start a Blues Collection

There I am with collection again.

Truthfully, I don't care how you listen to these, but if you want to learn more about the blues, dial 'em up and give 'em a listen. Like I said, it's not all inclusive by any means, but if you don't find something you like, it's safe to say that you probably ain't a bluesman (or blueswoman, as the case may be).

1. Robert Cray, Strong Persuader

When I was a child, I rocked like a child. Consequently, I was listening to rock radio in college. Then one day, I heard the song "Smokin' Gun" off of this album. I thought, "Hey, that's not rock, but I sure do like it." So I bought the album (you had to do that in those days if you wanted to hear it). Loved it. Still do.

Twenty-eight years later, I consider it my first step on my blues journey. That's why even though it might not make my ultimate Desert Island blues list, I'm starting this list with it (even though I'm begging for harassment from blues purists).

2. Robert Johnson, King of the Delta Blues

Here's the artist that a blues purist would have listed first. The legendary Robert Johnson. The one that sold his soul at the crossroads (that's hearsay, I wasn't actually there). You might have heard the song (ramped by Cream and nine zillion other rockers).

But here's the trick. Although I appreciate Johnson, and own the Complete Collection of his songs (there were only a handful), I don't really listen to a truckload of Delta blues, or any sort of acoustic blues. Nevertheless, you might really dig it, and there's no way I can write a list like this without the all-time King.

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Love your selections, Steve!  Great listening for the three day weekend.  Miss talkin' across the counter with ya!


good piece, had some interesting selections & ones I need to check out.  Only quibble was the Robert Cray vehicle, too 80's, I'd go with some Hooker,  I'm John Lee or Travelin'

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