It was a tough year for blues – its players win hearts and minds the old way, on the stage. But the musicians who stood out for you still found a way to reach people in the pandemic with standout albums and performances.
Here are the blues players you choose as 2020's standouts.
1. Joe Bonamassa
Joe shares some of his finest blues licks (opens in new tab)
Joe is always high in this list every year – he's the biggest blues guitarist in the world, but also the hardest working.
Despite its challenges 2020 was a special one for him, where the relentless touring had to stop but Joe Bonamassa certainly didn't. And he went above and beyond to help other musicians too.
The year started strong with Joe being joined by a host of talent for his Keeping the Blues Alive at Sea V cruise in February, but when COVID changed the landscape for musicians he rallied for touring players in need from loss of earnings with his Fueling Musicians program.
He went on to play a livestream from the Ryman in Nashville for the cause too before releasing one of his finest albums in October with Royal Tea – and the 20th anniversary version of his debut.
Along the way there was another Epiphone signature model, producing Eric Gales' forthcoming studio album, a film about his own remarkable career and Joe has even reversed roles to great effect interviewing his peers in the Live From Nerdville series (check it out here (opens in new tab) it's great).
We'll put money on next year being an even bigger one.
2. Christone ‘Kingfish’ Ingram
Kingfish is a player who inspires while simultaneously makes us want to give up – the Clarksdale-born sensation is just on that higher blues plain that few can ever ascend to. And he's there at only 21 years of age.
He's proof positive of the timeless power the blues possesses in gifted hands – his deep soulful vocals as potent with an acoustic as his Strat.
His self-titled debut arrived last year but Kingfish has kept the momentum running with new singles; Rock & Roll's tribute to the mother he lost last year not just highly emotive, but also hinting a real crossover potential for him as an artist.
3. Marcus King
Rig tour: Marcus King (opens in new tab)
Another phenomenal young playing and vocal talent that assures us guitar is in great hands. And he's evolving fast; this year's El Dorado finds him really stretching out into soul and country under the production of Dan Auerbach (opens in new tab). Its recent Grammy nomination will hopefully see more people catching on.
4. Rebecca Lovell and Megan Lovell (Larkin Poe)
Megan and Rebecca Lovell on the endless possibilities of slide guitar and playing 21st-century blues
Why release one album in 2020 when you can put out two? We're loving the Lovell sister's blues takes on Lenny Kravitz, Phil Collins and Elton John hits for their Kindred Spirits records but it's their own songs on Self Made Man that are the main event.
Larkin Poe have developed a slide blues sound that takes classic values forward without falling down intro the retro traps so many others have. And it's vital in bringing the blues to new ears and carrying the fire forwards.
5. Samantha Fish
Forced to cancel or postpone extensive touring plans before she could return with socially distanced shows, the inspirational Samatha Fish adapted, playing weekly Facebook live performances from home for fans.
She also used her platforms to pay it forwards with weekly showcase livestreams blues artists she's signed to her own Wild Heart Label, but we can't wait to see her back to hopefully touring properly again in 2021.
6. Joanne Shaw Taylor
10 questions for Joanne Shaw Taylor (opens in new tab)
She managed to play some of her March UK run in support of 2019's Reckless Heart before the pandemic intervened, but JST managed to follow-up the record with companion EP Reckless Blues in 2020.
It finds her making John Mayer (opens in new tab)'s Slow Dancing In A Burning Room and Rag N' Bone Man's Human her own, alongside the new song Here Comes The Flood that's sure to transfer well when she returns to the stage.
7. Erja Lyytinen
The Finnish blues supremo didn't let lockdown keep her down; she even released a Lockdown Live album from her rooftop show in Kuopio in June.
In October, Erja also took part in our Virtual Guitar Show, breaking down some of the songs from her back catalogue and showing us her rig . She'll be putting that back into action with live dates in her homeland next year .