Best of 2022 Press

albert smith: Big belly mama

“Albert Smith’s music has a smile in it. No matter the subject, the South Carolina pianist’s rattly, rollicking keyboard accompaniment creases a listeners’ face with happy lines as Smith tosses off raucous jelly-roll licks fit for curing any malady.”

Grant Britt, No Depression

“Out of the record company vault at long last, Big Belly Mama finds the 87-year-old in surprisingly vigorous and vital form. Despite what his God-fearing neighbors might think, Smith has a good time creating lustful moods for the likes of ‘Biscuit Roller’ and the title track.”

– Frank-John Hadley, DownBeat

“Good music, like films, theater, and books, lets you transcend place and time and surf your imagination into the fantasy realm. The new album on the Music Maker label by Albert Smith catapults you straight back into the past, letting you hang out in an imaginary smokey 1930s speakeasy or even a family parlor.”

– Frank Matheis, Living Blues Magazine

Beverly “guitar” watkins: In Paris

“Of course, we can’t see any of the show-stopping acrobatic stage moves (playing behind her head and on her knees), so much a part of her riveting performance, but the professionally recorded gig sounds vibrant and energetic as the French crowd, who typically love American blues, loudly holler their appreciation.”

Hal Horowitz, Creative Loafing

“Watkins’ sound is as hardcore as any masculine rocker, a full-frontal attack that takes no prisoners as she mows down any doubters.”

Grant Britt, No Depression

“Watkins described her style as ‘real Lightnin’ Hopkins lowdown blues … hard classic blues, stompin’ blues, railroad smokin’ blues,’ and she certainly smokes throughout this set, from the anti-war vibes of “Baghdad Blues” to the rollicking wrap up, “Get Out on the Floor.” She growls her way through a fierce take of “What’d I Say” by Ray Charles (whom she used to play with), and sweetly croons Sam Cooke’s “You Send Me.” And for a master class in blues, you can’t do better than the steamy “Red Mama Blues,” named after one of her guitars.”

Gillian G. Gaar, Audiofemme

Johnny ray daniels: Whatever you need

“A former rock ‘n’ roller, this humble artist underwent a religious conversion on stage one night and has spent the rest of his life making impassioned gospel for the flock at his home church and for us lucky sinners who get a chance to hear it. Working with Memphis mainstays Will Sexton and Bruce Watson, Daniels has cut a soul-stirring collection of vintage-sounding paeans to the Lord meant to shake the rafters and spark a fire within.”

Paste Magazine

Sacred Soul’s Johnny Ray Daniels Has ‘Whatever You Need’

Don Wilcock, American Blues Scene

“Whatever You Need is a stellar example of not only Daniels’ prowess as a singer and musician, but of his conviction that Southern Black gospel music remains the fertile ground where spiritual inspiration meets and informs the grit, gristle, and struggle of everyday life.”

Thom Jurek, All Music

“Loaded with the gutsy growls and falsetto whoops of long-ago gospel, the album (produced in Memphis by Watson and guitarist Will Sexton) brings hope and joy.”

Bruce Sylvester, Goldmine Magazine

Hermon Hitson: Let the gods sing

Atlanta blues musician Hermon Hitson keeps the roots of Black Southern music alive

WABE, Speaking of Music

“One critic compared Hitson to Sun Ra, and I concur: At the conclusion of almost any song, you feel like you’ve been on an astral voyage. … It is a fine showcase for Hitson’s adventurous guitar and rough voice as he explores funk, rhythm & blues, soul and tough blues. To hear him is to be changed.”

Guy Lemcoe, The Audio Beat

“The record colors wildly outside the lines, takes you on an exciting trip, and leaves you in awe.”

Add to Want List

Funk-Soul Pioneer/Hendrix Collaborator Herman Hitson Premieres Single ‘Ain’t No Other Way’

“an exemplary slice of soul-funk.”

American Blues Scene

Shelton Powe

“More than a musical fancy, the Carolina blues is a piece of Shelton. His honest delivery is captivating.”

Glide Magazine

“Deeply rooted in tradition, Shelton Powe makes no concessions to modernity; it’s an authentic set of Piedmont blues performances that are as timeless as they are engaging.”

– Bill Kopp, Living Blues Magazine

“the collection is raw and hypnotic, blurring the lines between past and present with a timeless mix of century-old traditional songs and newly-written material delivered with only Powe’s captivating fingerstyle guitar work and gritty vocals.”

American Blues Scene

Live at WoodSongs Radio Hour:

WoodSongs Old-Time Radio Hour is an all-volunteer, live-audience celebration of grassroots music and the artists who make it. The show airs on 537 radio stations from Australia to Boston to Dublin, Ireland, on American Forces Radio Network twice each weekend in 177 nations, every military base and US Naval ship in the world, coast-to-coast in millions of TV homes as a public TV series.

WoodSongs is recorded live at the Lyric Theatre in downtown Lexington, Kentucky.

Watch the show here.

Deep in the South: A Music Maker Songbook

“This Music Maker compilation is one of the best the foundation has put out to date, an in-depth look and listen of the treasures these elders still have to offer.”

Grant Britt, No Depression

“The finest classic songbooks—Carl Sandburg’s The American Songbag, jazz’s coveted The Real Book, or the vocals-focused Rise Up Singing—also imparted folk wisdom and historical context alongside piano notations and vocal melodies. That all-encompassing spirit is captured by Deep in the South: A Music Maker Songbook. Out September 20, the 89-page book showcases 27 different songs, combining guitar tablature and lyrics with riveting biographies, musicological footnotes, and evocative photos.”

Nick McGregor, IndyWeek

Sugar is my name: Sugar Harp

“Thoroughly entertaining.”

John Mitchell, Blues Blast Magazine

“The harmonica wizard.”

Take Effect

“The air of self-assurance that permeates Sugar Harp’s performances on these ten tracks is only that which comes from decades of hearing and playing his chosen style of blues.”

Doug Collette, All About Jazz