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Blues is one of the most important genres in the world of music. More than that, though, it’s one of the most inspirational, influential art forms to emerge from American culture, having originated in the USA’s Deep South towards the close of the 19th century.

Like superhero comic-books, hot dogs, baseball, and jazz, the blues have a distinct feel of true Americana.

Most of us will be able to name at least one or two blues legends, but there’s much more to the genre than them; hundreds of men and women have featured in the history of American blues, as the genre evolved and expanded through its early period.

To this day, it continues to inspire and influence new acts, and it’s vital to shine a light on them rather than focusing solely on the true innovators of the past.

In this guide, we’ll explore the top 10 American blues bands and solo artists who have become recognized since 1990. As a result, you won’t see the likes of B.B. King or Marcia Ball in this list, but you will find a wealth of exciting fresh talent instead.

The 10 Best American Blues Bands and Solo Artists

Blues Band / Solo Artist
1 Kenny Wayne Shepherd Kenny Wayne Shepherd was born in Shreveport, Louisiana in 1977. He has become known as one of the foremost names in the blues scene, with a number of studio albums to his name and impressive success in the charts.

He is a self-taught guitarist, which is a massive achievement in itself, yet he’s unable to read music – a remarkable trait for such an accomplished performer.

Shepherd actually started playing the guitar when he was around four years old, though it wasn’t until the age of seven that he really began to take it seriously. He recorded demo tapes through his teens, but it was a video recording of Shepherd’s performance at Shreveport’s Red River Revel Arts Festival that really helped bring him to the attention of the public.

Irving Azoff, chief of Giant Records, was so taken by that show that he offered Shepherd a deal for multiple albums, providing the young performer with the breakthrough he’d wanted. His first studio album – Ledbetter Heights – saw release in 1995, and went on to go platinum in the US.

This was followed by Trouble Is in 1997 (which went platinum too), Live On in 1999, The Place You’re In in 2004, and others since. He is also part of The Rides, a band with two other experienced blues musicians.

Visit Kenny Wayne Shepherd’s official website to learn more.
2 The Tedeschi Trucks Band The Teseschi Trucks Band hail from Florida’s Jacksonville, and were founded in 2010. The Trucks Band is headed by husband and wife Derek and Susan Tedeschi.

The group came together in 2010, after Derek and Susan toured under the Soul Stew Revival name. They combined their own modern blues bands to create the Trucks Band, and they have gone on to greater and greater success since.

Their first album was released in 2011, titled Revelator; it achieved moderate success. Their next release, Everybody’s Talkin’, was a live recording that hit the charts in 2012.

They received a nomination for the Blues Music Awards in 2013, the same year in which they published their third album, Made Up Mind. They went on to release Let Me Get By in 2015.

The Tedeschi Trucks Band has featured numerous members since they were established, including Kofi Burbridge, Tyler Greenwell, J.J. Johnson, Mike Mattison, Mark Rivers, Kebbi Williams, Tim Lefebvre, and others.

The Tedeschi Trucks Band is made up of multiple parts, including guitars, keyboards, drums, saxophone, bass guitar, trumpet, and trombone. This helps them achieve a big band sound and a distinctive vocal style.
3 Fatback Deluxe Fatback Deluxe hasn’t always been known by this eye-catching name: they were dubbed the Georgia Jooks for some time, and may be recognized by this more easily by certain fans of the blues genre.

The group consists of Ira Malkin (who plays the harmonica and performs vocals), Chris Kramer (the band’s guitarist), Bey Gettys (who plays bass) and, finally, Bob Rice (on drums).

Fatback Deluxe are known for their remarkable style, an authentic blues sound originating from the roadhouse tradition, raw and powerful. They released their first album in 2008, titled Rat Now – a bold debut that showcased their talent to great effect.

Rat Now combined a selection of their own original songs and covers of classic blues tracks, with the latter originally performed by the likes of Magic Sam.

Fatback Deluxe changed their name from the Georgia Jooks in 2007, six years after they were first formed. They claim they did so because they grew tired of people struggling to pronounce their name properly, thus prompting them to explain again and again.

Considering that Fatback Deluxe is a much more memorable, evocative name, perhaps they have those confused individuals to thank for the motivation!
4 John Németh John Nemeth was born in Idaho in 1975, and grew up to be regarded as a powerful force in the blues scene. He is an accomplished singer, songwriter, and harmonica player, with a large portfolio of albums and awards under his belt.

He was given the Soul Blues Male Artist Award in 2014 and the Soul Blues Album Award in 2015, helping to bring him to greater prominence. He has recorded successful eight solo albums, starting with The Jack of Harps in 2002, which he self-published (with his band, The Jacks).

His debut solo album was Come and Get It in 2004, followed by Magic Touch in 2006. Love Me Tonight came along in 2009, while Name the Day! was released just one year later in 2010.

Soul Live was released in 2012, Blues Live also in 2012, and Memphis Grease in 2014.

He has also been nominated for numerous awards, including for Contemporary Blues Album, B.B. King Entertainer, Soul Blues Male Artist, and more. His distinctive vocals and astonishing instrumental work mark him out as a true master of the blues sound. He will be remembered as one of the fundamental greats of the genre long after his time.

Learn more about John at the official John Németh website
5 Damon Fowler Damon Fowler is known as a blues artist, though he also incorporates more diverse sounds into his work, such as R&B and swing. Primarily, though, he cultivates a blues style that long-term and new fans of the genre respond to.

He was born in Brandon, Florida, and has performed alongside some other notable names in the blues world: Chris Duarte, Buddy Guy, Johnny Winter, and more.

Damon started to play the guitar when he was just 12 years old, but went on to develop talent in different playing techniques like the lap steel, acoustic, slide, and more. This all helps to create a unique musical style that fans adore.

He released his first three albums himself before he managed to land a record deal with Blind Pig. His first album was 1999’s Riverview Drive, 2000’s Roots and Branches, and 2003’s Live at Skipper’s Smoke House.

When he finally started to record with Blind Pig, Damon Fowler released 2009’s Sugar Shack, followed by Devil Got His Way in 2011. Sounds of Home was another album, which arrived in 2014.

He also formed a popular blues band known as Southern Hospitality with J.P. Soars, Chris Peet, and Chuck Riley in 2011. The group released an album titled Easy Livin’ in 2013, which was produced by the legendary Tab Benoit.
6 Grady Champion Grady Champion has released more than eight albums since he started to record in the late 1990s. He was born in Canton, Mississippi, and was influenced by such notable performers as Sonny Boy Williamson II and Howlin’ Wolf.

Believe it or not, Champion grew up as the youngest of a staggering 28 children, all of whom lived with their parents on a farm. He developed a love of music, and started his professional performing life in a way that is incredibly unusual for a blues artist – as a rapper.

Under the name MC Gold, Grady Champion cut his proverbial teeth specializing in hip hop, before his first album was released in 1998, titled Goin’ Back Home.

His later albums went on to include 1999’s Payin’ for My Sins, and 2001’s 2 Days Short of a Week. He was named winner of the long-running International Blues Challenge in 2010 (then in its 26th year), before going on to tour. His live album, Back in Mississippi: Live at the 930 Blues Cafe was published in 2010 too.

In 2011, Dreamin’ became his next album, followed by Shanachie Days in 2012 and Tough Times Don’t Last in the same year.

Champion has created his own recording label, D Champ Records, which has an impressive roster of performers to its name.
7 Eric Gales This talented blues-rock guitarist was born in 1974, in Memphis, Tennessee. He was regarded as a ‘child prodigy’ in his early years, due to his starting to play guitar at four years old.

He nurtured his natural talent with the help of his brothers, and played in the style of Albert King and Jimi Hendrix. Eric and his brother Eugene were signed with Elektra Records towards the end of 1990, and attracted significant acclaim for his work.

He went on to perform along with the world-renowned Carlos Santana during the 1994 Woodstock festival, a feat countless other guitarists would doubtless want to achieve, and managed to more than hold his own. His albums include 1991’s The Eric Gales Band, 1993’s Picture of a Thousand Faces, 1995’s Lil E – Playa for Life, That’s What I Am in 2001, Crystal Vision in 2006, The Psychedelic Underground in 2007, 2009’s Layin’ Down the Blues, 2010’s Relentless, and more.

Gales has also performed on, and contributed to, dozens of other works by fellow artists. His discography is truly impressive, marking him out as not just a man with tremendous talent, but one who is willing to work hard. His skills have already seen him regarded as something of a legend, and it’s sure he’ll continue to receive this same praise as his abilities adapt and evolve.

Discover more about Eric Gales at his official website.
8 Seasick Steve Seasick Steve is a blues artist with a unique look and style.

His early life was difficult, and set him down a path of exploration and experimentation. He was born in Oakland, California, but ran away from home when he was just 13 years old after being abused at the hands of a cruel stepfather. He went on to live on the road, working odd jobs across the United States, while continuing to play the blues.

He earned money as a studio engineer and busker, before releasing Cheap in 2001. This was his first album, though it was recorded with a band, making 2006’s Dog House Music his first solo release.

It was his performance on the 2006 edition of Jools Holland’s Hootenanny – a famous New Year show broadcast in the UK – that helped to bring him much more popularity. He received plenty of coverage and praise for his distinctive blues style, receiving awards and playing at huge British festivals like Glastonbury, Leeds, and Reading.

His other albums include I Started Out With Nothin and I Still Got Most of It Left in 2008, Man from Another Time in 2009, You Can’t Teach an Old Dog New Tricks in 2011, Hubcap Music in 2013, Sonic Soul Surfer in 2015, and Keepin’ the Hose Between Me and the Ground in 2016.

Visit the official Seasick Steve website to learn more.
9 The Black Keys The Black Keys incorporate blues into their garage rock sound, creating a signature style that has wowed fans the world over.

They were established in 2001, in Akron, Ohio. The band consists of childhood friends Dan Auerback and Patrick Carney, with the former citing such influences from the world of blues as Robert Johnson and Junior Kimbrough.

They were supposed to form a full band, but when the rest of the members failed to show up for a demo session, the duo found themselves performing well together.

They released their debut album through Alive, an independent label, titled The Big Come Up in 2002. This attracted the attention of Far Possum Records, with whom they released their second album Thickfreakness in 2003 and their third album Rubber Factory in 2004.

Subsequent albums include Magic Potion, Attack & Release, Brothers, El Camino, and Turn Blue. They have received multiple awards, including a 2013 Brit Award for Best International Group, a Grammy Award for Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal, another Grammy Award for Best Alternative Music Album in 2011, and more.
10 Larry Lampkin Larry Lampkin was born in Fort Worth, Texas, and is respected as a leading name in the blues genre. He has released two albums – When I Get Home and The Blues is Real – both to significant acclaim from the press and blues fans.

Lampkin began playing music at a young age, writing his own lyrics and performing his own tracks in his teenage years. Though he considers himself to be largely self-taught, he actually received some effective guitar tutorials from such well-known blues acts as U.P. Wilson.

Lampkin performed as the lead guitarist for Vernon Garrett, a top blues artist, and has gone on to make a name for himself as a popular blues artist. He lacks the recognition of some other performers in the blues genre, such as The Black Keys, but still has a loyal fan-base responding to his remarkable style.

Larry Lampkin is definitely a blues musician with the talent to expand his reach further and further.

The History of the Blues

The blues is rooted deeply in American culture, beginning in somewhat sad circumstances.

It originated with slaves working in plantations in the United States, though obviously in a much different form. The African-American population forced to undertake grueling work in horrendous conditions were given no recognition or voice, so turned to expressing their emotions and ideas through song.

Known as ‘field calls’, these musical creations were passed back and forth from one group of slaves to another, a way to communicate without their owners being able to decipher their ‘code’. The name ‘the blues’ originates from the melancholic tone of the slaves’ songs, capturing their responses to being held against their will and forced to endure endless brutality.

These traits were birthed by West African singing traditions, such as the call-and-response and improvisational elements.

As The United States’ African-American population started to move further into the country’s northern regions after the Great Depression, their blues tradition attained greater recognition. The blues style was introduced to New York, Chicago, and Detroit, where it quickly gained popularity and acclaim throughout dance halls and clubs.

Chicago actually became known as the north’s blues center, and blues greats like Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters, and Jimmy Reed all headed there from Mississippi to help establish the new blues sound.

The Chicago blues integrated a more modern, electric take on the traditional style, to bring new life and energy to the genre. Bass guitar, electric guitars, piano, and harmonica all became critical aspects of the new blues, and are now considered fundamental.

African-American civilians started to embrace urban living and spent less time in the rural locations in which many had lived for generations (not all by choice, of course). This enabled more and more African-Americans to start performing their own blues music, leading to a bigger demographic of bands and solo artists.

The Blues: Making History

The first blues song recorded was the ‘Laughing Song’, by George W. Johnson, released in 1895. While this is obviously a major milestone, it was actually Mamie Smith’s 1920 hit ‘Crazy Blues’ that exploded the blues genre, followed by her hit ‘It’s Right Here For You’.

This was distributed at just one dollar per unit, and managed to sell a remarkable 75,000 records during its first month of being on sale.

For the time, that was a staggering achievement. It helped to herald the blues as a powerful force in the music scene, breeding all manner of talented performers. However, due to the genre’s African-American roots, its reach was somewhat limited, as white people and those from other cultures viewed it as ‘not for them’.

Thankfully, common sense prevailed, and the blues fan-base started to diversify, opening it up to a wider range of listeners. More and more recording companies expanded their search to take in more singers in the blues genre, regardless of their race or gender, cultivating the varied roster of performers that came to build the blues into the mainstream success it is.

The blues is for everyone. Just like any other genre of music, people of all backgrounds, colors, and beliefs are free to express themselves through this popular style, communicating their experiences as they see fit.

Influencing and Inspiring the Future

The blues went on to influence other genres and talented individuals. It may be considered the starting point for jazz and R&B, the latter of which is one of the most popular of all mainstream musical genres.

Rock and roll evolved from the blues too, with such game-changing acts as Chuck Berry, The Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan taking inspiration from the blues.

The blues are, of course, all about expressing sadness or conveying difficulties, though the extent of that may vary. The plantation slaves who helped to birth the blues tradition were trapped in impossible situations, and this informed their songs.

While subsequent blues musicians may not have faced such difficulties, their lives were still permeated with strife. Racism, isolation, and more all continued to make the African-American experience in the United States a real challenge.

Of course, as more and more white artists (and those of other races) embraced the blues, their lyrics tackled different issues. However, everyone faces difficulties and woes from time to time, and the blues allows everyone to voice their emotions. They can sound more upbeat and have an optimistic style, but still belong firmly within the blues genre.

Solo acts and bands will always gravitate towards the blues, though it will continue to evolve with each generation of artists, as diverse lifestyles and experiences produce varied sounds. Looking over the list of 10 best American blues bands and solo artists from 1990 onwards, it’s clear just how diverse the blues scene is, offering something for everyone.