Alligator Records, the preeminent Chicago blues label, recently debuted a new collection of albums called the Crucial Blues Series. There's Harmonica Blues, Guitar Blues, Slide Guitar Blues, Chicago Blues, and Live Blues. For any blues fan, these albums come highly recommended.
Texas is home to an all-encompassing sound that includes electric blues, country blues, soul and honky-tonk. Texas blues has also felt the influence of zydeco and Cajun rhythms from neighboring Louisiana, as well as country-swing and the so-called "Tex-Mex" sound of the American Southwest.
His name may be synonymous with Louisiana, but make no mistake, zydeco singer and accordionist C.J. Chenier is 100 percent Texan. Born and raised in Port Arthur, Texas, C.J. is the son of the undisputed "King of Zydeco," Clifton Chenier. When his father died in 1987, C.J. inherited Clifton's Red Hot Louisiana Band, and he's been touring and recording ever since. C.J.'s album, Too Much Fun, featuring the cut "Richest Man" on Crucial Texas Blues, is described as "Heartfelt swamp pop at its finest."
Not far from Port Arthur is Houston, Texas, birthplace of the "Swamp Boogie Queen," Katie Webster.
Katie Webster grew up with a love for the blues. She was trained as a gospel and classical singer, but her heart was in the rhythm-and-blues and soul music she heard on the radio. Webster eventually made her mark in Louisiana, recording almost non-stop for the famed Goldband Records label in the 1950s and '60s. She recorded with scores of famous blues musicians, and once toured with singer Otis Redding. This track, titled "Those Lonely, Lonely Nights," from her album No Foolin' features blues guitarist Lonnie Brooks. Katie Webster was 63 when she died of a stroke in 1999.
Another soulful southern blues voice belongs to Texas-born singer and pianist Marcia Ball. Seeking her fame and fortune, Marcia set out for San Francisco but when her car broke down in Austin, Texas, she decided she'd make Austin her permanent home. More than 30 years later, Marcia has produced almost a dozen solo albums that have a musical category all their own, "Gulf Coast swamp rock."
Marcia Ball's "I'm Coming Down With The Blues," from her Alligator Records debut album Presumed Innocent, and from the new Alligator compilation, Crucial Texas Blues.
Also featured on Crucial Texas Blues are Texas blues masters Albert Collins, Johnny Winter, Floyd Dixon, Delbert McClinton, Johnny Copeland, Long John Hunter and W.C. Clark.
But what collection of Texas blues would be complete without veteran singer, composer and guitarist Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown, performing an original tune called "She Walks Right In."