The Top 20 Blues Rock Roots Albums 2020 image

Top 20 Blues Rock Roots Albums 2020

Despite the pandemic, 2020 brought so many outstanding blues, rock and roots albums. Top 20? It should be Top 30. We tried very hard to narrow our list down to Top 20 but we could not bring ourselves to cut one more album. So there’s 22. Call it the most unpredictable and challenging year yet and our number of albums fits right in. There’s just too much great music this year. That’s a great thing, something we are all grateful for.

With a record-breaking number of votes from fans, from the Rock and Blues Muse Group, and our editorial staff, our faith in music fans has been reaffirmed. We know that the fans have been and are keeping the music we love alive and that they’ll be there ready to jam when the pandemic has been contained and we can gather safely again. For now, add every one of these albums to your listening rotation.

This list is in no particular order. We do not believe there is a best or least best. Each album is just as great as the other.

WT_Ordinary_Madness

Walter Trout, Ordinary Madness

Ordinary Madness may well be five-decade blues/rock survivor Walter Trout’s finest recorded hour. Released by Provogue Records / Mascot Label Group and produced by Eric Corne, the record brings us Trout playing better guitar than ever and writing songs that are right on target for the year that 2020 has been. He reveals his personal truths as a writer while still slinging enough hot guitar to melt an iceberg. Ordinary Madness is a strong showing from one of the best guitarists, singer-songwriters of the modern era.
Review of Ordinary Madness 
Walter Trout website

Joe Bonamassa, Royal Tea

Guitar Superman Joe Bonamassa pays tribute to his British blues/rock heroes Jeff Beck, John Mayall and The Bluesbreakers, Eric Clapton, Led Zeppelin, and Cream on his epically cool record Royal Tea. This is the sound that inspired him as a young man and has informed his musical journey from then until now. Tracked at Abbey Road Studios and released by J&R Adventures, the set features new material co-written by Bonamassa and important British musicians including former Whitesnake guitarist Bernie Marsden, ex-Cream lyricist Pete Brown, and piano man Jools Holland. As always, Bonamassa puts on a clinic on how to make great music and guitar fans the world over will love every moment of it.
Review of Royal Tea 
Joe Bonamassa website 

Larkin Poe, Self Made Man

Grammy nominated roots/rock duo Larkin Poe released Self Made Man on their Tricki Woo Records and it rocks with powerful vocals, guitar and lap steel riffs, and a roaring rhythm section. Pushing boundaries, Self Made Man sees sister Rebecca and Megan Lovell sourcing their American Southern heritage, with their own modern day depiction of blues-based roots/rock in the 11 tracks. Their fifth studio album, the songs are intense and moody with hints of the Delta. The vocals and harmonies, performed by these multi-instrumentalist sisters, are a standout.
Review of Self Made Man 
Larkin Poe website 

Robert Jon & The Wreck, Last Light On The Highway

Southern rock and roll band Robert Jon & The Wreck have been releasing albums since the band’s inception in 2011, collecting multiple awards along the way. Blues infused Southern rock, the band self-produced this 11 track, all-original album that’s fresh with contemporary, expansive sounds and pristine production. Led by vocalist/guitarist Robert Jon Burrison, whose voice is one of the most ear-pleasing today, the band includes Andrew Espantman, Steve Maggoria, Henry James and Warren Murrel.  Backing singers include Mahalia Barnes, Jade McRae and Juanita Tippins. The harmonies on this album are part of the band’s signature sound, along with well-crafted songs and outstanding musicianship. One cursory listen might lead you into thinking their sound is Southern rock—they are much more than that.
Review of Last Light On The Highway 
Robert Jon & The Wreck website 

Sonny Landreth, Blacktop Run

Slide guitar magic man Sonny Landreth lays it all on us on his 2020 record Black Top Run, a wonderful set of music released by Provogue/Mascot Label Group. Landreth is perhaps the most identifiable guitarist in American music and routinely melds blues, rock, swamp, and singer-songwriter DNA into one of the few truly original styles in the roots music world. Black Top Run combines vocal and instrumental cuts to great effect and paints a clear picture of Landreth’s monumental talent and keen instincts. Just listen and let his sound wash over you.
Review of Blacktop Run 
Sonny Landreth website 

The Allman Betts Band, Bless Your Heart

The Allman Betts Band keeps the family flame burning brightly on 2020’s Bless Your Heart on BMG Records. Namesakes Devon Allman and Duane Betts along with group members Berry Duane Oakley, Johnny Stachela, John Ginty, R Scott Bryan, and John Lum tracked it at Muscle Shoals Sound Studio in Alabama on two-inch tape, vintage style. The set comes across as a tribute to and a step forward from some of the most important rock music to ever hit a microphone and proves that new, meaningful guitar music is still being made. Absorb every note and become part of the movement.
Review of Bless Your Heart 
The Allman Betts Band website

Kirk Fletcher, My Blues Pathway

Former lead guitarist for The Fabulous Thunderbirds, Kirk Fletcher is widely considered one of the best blues guitarists in the world. A five-time Blues Music Award and British Blues Award nominee, Fletcher released My Blues Pathway on Cleopatra Records, his sixth solo album. A mix of blues originals and covers, and two co-writes with Robert Cray’s bass player, Richard Cousins, My Blues Pathway features 10 tracks of sumptuous, soulful guitar, smooth vocals and catchy melodies with groove. Honest, authentic blues with Fletcher’s inimitable stamp, he and the band of superb musicians (Travis Carlton, Jeff Babko, Lemar Carter, David Kida, Joe Sublett, and Mark Pender) the songwriting is some of Fletcher’s best and all groove-based in their own way. My Blues Pathway is a celebration of the blues and blues masters.
Review of My Blues Pathway 
Kirk Fletcher website 

Shemekia Copeland, Uncivil War

Powerhouse, soulful vocalist and songwriter Shemekia Copeland released Uncivil War on Alligator Records, a defining entry in her discography. With armfuls of Blues Music Awards, Living Blues Awards and three Grammy nominations, Copeland has been praised by luminaries such as Jeff Beck and Carlos Santana. Uncivil War is a definite high point in her career, and addresses vital issues of society and humanity. Featuring a dazzling array of talent including Jason Isbell, Steve Cropper, Christone ‘Kingfish’ Ingram, Jerry Douglas, and Duane Eddy, Uncivil War is both compelling and incredibly moving.
Review of Uncivil War 
Shemekia Copeland website

When Rivers Meet, We Fly Free

British blues/rock duo, When Rivers Meet is made up of husband and wife outfit, Grace and Aaron Bond. With an underpinning of traditional blues and classic rock, their album We Fly Free boasts a genuine, gritty sound with a vintage vibe. With a killer voice, Grace rocks the 12 tracks, along with Aaron’s rich vocals and monster guitar riffs. We Fly Free, released by One Road Records, is their follow up to EP, Innocence of Youth, also released in 2020,  When Rivers Meet possess a clear talent for songwriting as well. Don’t miss the passages where Grace plays slide mandolin.
Review of We Fly Free 
When Rivers Meet website 

Marcus King, El Dorado

Expanding on Marcus King’s Southern soul, rock and blues sound,  El Dorado is King’s first solo album, produced by Black Keyes’ guitarist Dan Auerbach, out on Fantasy Records. Extraordinary, soulful singer, songwriter and virtuoso guitarist, Marcus King’s voice is front and center on this album of well-crafted tunes with plenty of soulful grooves. A contemporary exploration of Southern R&B, Country-soul, blues/rock and blues, El Dorado established King as one of the most soulful voices of his generation. On El Dorado, King is backed by Gene Chrisman, Bobby Wood, and Dave Roe. King’s previous albums and EPs include Carolina Confessions, Due North, The Marcus King Band and Soul Insight.
Review of El Dorado
Marcus King website 

Mike Zito, Quarantine Blues

Mike Zito and his smoking band tracked Quarantine Blues while actually in quarantine at the beginning of the pandemic. They’d been in Europe on tour but COVID-19 cancelled their gigs. They came home, went into lockdown, and wrote and recorded this rocking set that then came out on Gulf Coast Records. The album is an impressive accomplishment as well as a wonderful lesson in adapting to the situation at hand. Zito is a blues/rock monster and this is arguably his best work thus far. You’re going to like what you hear.
Review of Quarantine Blues 
Mike Zito website

Ruthie Foster Big Band, Live At The Paramount

Nine-time Blues Music Award winner and three-time Grammy nominee Ruthie Foster puts her big-league vocals into a brass-heavy big band setting on Live At The Paramount. Released by Blue Corn Music, the record was captured live January 26th, 2019 at the 105-year-old Paramount Theater in Austin, Texas and is an overwhelming mix of Ruthie’s blues and gospel skills and fully-orchestrated big band arrangements. Foster soars above her own lofty standards with the big band behind her and showcases the finest female voice in today’s roots music scene. This is an uplifting and inspirational record that will put your heart back where it needs to be.
Review of Live At The Paramount 
Ruthie Foster website 

Tinsley Ellis, Ice Cream In Hell

Blues/rock ruler Tinsley Ellis continues his run as one of the most memorable guitarists and vocalists in the game on his new album Ice Cream In Hell on Alligator Records. Tracked in Nashville and produced by Ellis and his longtime co-producer Kevin McKendree, the sessions show the influence of Albert King, Peter Green, and Hound Dog Taylor but are jam-packed with Ellis’ own hard-edged style. 40 years in the blues business have only made Ellis better and more eloquent, which rocks because he obviously still has a lot to say.
Review of Ice Cream In Hell 
Tinsley Ellis website 

Dion, Blues With Friends

Released on KTBA Records (Joe Bonamassa’s record label) Blues with Friends by Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Dion, features blues/roots contemporary artists Jeff Beck, Billy Gibbons, Joe Bonamassa, Samantha Fish John Hammond Jr., Sonny Landreth Jerry and Jimmy Vivino, Joe Louis Walker, Brian Setzer, Stevie Van Zandt, Bruce Springsteen, and more. Blues With Friends boasts 12 tracks of strong songwriting, musical depth and mastery, along with Dion’s smooth vocals and skillful craft of blues.
Review of Blues With Friends 
Dion website 

Lynne Jackaman, One Shot

British singer-songwriter Lynne Jackaman, former frontwoman of rock band, Saint Jude, released One Shot, recorded at Fame Studios, Muscle Shoals. Contemporary rhythm and blues, rock and roll and funky rhythms weave their way through most songs on One Shot, brought to life by superb musicians and an electrifying vocalist. Backed by the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, the result is not just superb musicianship but a fresh sound with an emphasis on groove. There’s gusto and redemption on One Shot, with Jackaman channeling anguish and grit into bold, swinging tunes. With a voice like hers, she rocks it with soul on One Shot, produced by Jamie Evans. A stunning solo debut.
Review of One Shot 
Lynne Jackaman website 

Albert Castiglia, Wild and Free

2020 Blues Music Awards nominee Albert Castiglia hits hard on his live album Wild and Free thanks to Gulf Coast Records. Castiglia gets down with special guests Mike Zito, John Ginty, and Lewis Stephens in front of a happy crowd at The Funky Biscuit in Boca Raton, Florida, reminding us all how much we have to get back to post-Covid. Castiglia is a dominant guitarist, a strong singer, and a compelling entertainer who is creating his own legend now, in real time. This is double-strength blues/rock that will cure what ails you.
Review of Wild and Free
Albert Castiglia website

Elvin Bishop & Charlie Musselwhite, 100 Years of Blues

Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame guitarist Elvin Bishop and Grammy-winning harmonica player Charlie Musselwhite conspire as an awesome blues duo on their new album 100 Years of Blues on Alligator Records. The set is a back porch session by two of the most famous blues players ever and lets Bishop and Musselwhite do it their own raw-boned way with minimal interference to disrupt the vibe. This is as lowdown and real as it gets and is a functional cure for the plastic-hearted music we all hear far too much of.
Review of 100 years of Blues 
Elvin Bishop website 
Charlie Musselwhite website 

Alastair Greene, The New World Blues

Alastair Greene’s 2020 effort The New World Blues on Tab Benoit’s Whiskey Bayou Records is a stripped-down blast of live-in-the-studio blues/rock built on grit, soul, and first takes. Greene has all the guitar, vocal, and songwriting power anybody could ask for and will no doubt reach the heights of stardom we all dream of. He spent many years backing up classic rock legend Alan Parsons but Greene’s time to shine on his own has most definitely arrived. The New World Blues is a killer set that presents an outstanding talent on the rise. Highly recommended.
Review of The New World Blues 
Alastair Greene website 

Savoy Brown, Ain’t Done Yet

Legendary blues/rock veterans, Savoy Brown, released Ain’t Done Yet on Quarto Valley Records, much to fans’ delight. Led by the illustrious Kim Simmonds on vocals, guitar and harmonica, Savoy Brown began in London 55 years ago and now based in New York.  This set of 10 originals penned by Simmonds, is energetic blues with spirit and vitality plus serious guitar chops. Joined by long-time band mates, Pat DeSalvo and Garnet Grimm, Ain’t Done Yet features well-crafted tracks with catchy hooks, Simmonds’ smooth vocals, and a band that’s as tight as it can be.
Review of Ain’t Done Yet 
Savoy Brown Website 

Bernard Allison, Songs From The Road

Contemporary bluesman, guitarist, singer-songwriter Bernard Allison released Songs From The Road on Ruf Records. Captured live at a packed music club in Germany, this live set is a raw and real set of blues mixed with rock, R&B, jazz and funk from Allison’s collection since he began his solo career in the 1990s. There’s so much energy and life to Bernard Allison and his crew of A-list band of musicians on this album that highlights some of his best cuts from several of his albums. Songs From The Road is all about killer contemporary blues. Allison is the son of blues great, Luther Allison, and is regarded as a slide guitar master. Songs From The Road shows exactly why certain performances are meant to be captured live and in the moment.
Review of Songs From The Road 
Bernard Allison website 

Anthony Gomes, Containment Blues

Toronto native and #1 Billboard artist, Anthony Gomes is a blues/rock guitarist, singer-songwriter who propels blues/rock into the contemporary music culture. Containment Blues features Gomes’ whiskey soaked vocals, rock swagger, and growling guitar with more of a blues/roots flavor than previous releases. A multiple award-winner, Gomes delivers heartfelt, compelling songs inspired by the pandemic on Containment Blues. Pulling in musicians from all over the world, this record features blues/rock, R&B, and Soul.
Review of Containment Blues 
Anthony Gomes website

King King, Maverick

Britain’s own blues/rock hurricane King King dropped the band’s most evolved record yet this year with Maverick, which was released on Channel 9 Records. It’s a bold and beautiful set of rock music full of emotional honesty and tremendous performances by band members Alan Nimmo, Stevie Nimmo, Jonny Dyke, Zander Greenshields, and Andrew Scott. The fierce essence of the band is still very much present and is mixed with a new maturity and high-level songwriting skills that’ll keep listeners singing along and reaching for the “Repeat” button. Many people consider King King to be the strongest blues/rock band out there these days and Maverick proves the band is worthy of such profound praise.
Review of Maverick 
King King website 

See here for Top 20 Blues, Rock & Roots Albums of 2019.